Lent: Readings for Week 4

Our Lenten readings for this week highlight the missional character of God, his love for the prodigal and his desire for reconciliation. All of this fits will with the special observance of St. Patrick’s Day. Patrick was known as a missionary leader in Ireland. His model of ministry which emphasized living in close relationship with those he sought to reach is a model that needs to be reclaimed today.

Psalm • Psalm 34

Old Testament • Joshua 4:19-5:12

Gospel • Luke 15:11-32

New Testament • 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” – II Corinthians 15:20

Words for the Week + Missional Stuff

We will celebrate the second weekend of Easter this Saturday night. Let me encourage you to read through these passages in anticipation of our time together. Remember, Christ is risen! This is just as true this coming week as last.

Psalm Psalm 111

Old TestamentJob 42:1-6

GospelJohn 20:19-31

New Testament Acts 5:12-29

Also, click over to Tangence and check out these images of missional. This post comes from Rick Meigs at Blind Beggar and is a great reminder of how God works through us in the most normal and mundane ways.

Formation, Friendship and Mission: Pt. 1

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” – Galatians 4:19

A few weeks ago I included a post here entitled: A Community of Formation, Friendship and Mission. Let me share a little bit more with you the ideas introduced in that post. Today we will discuss formation and move to the other two concepts next week.

Formation Defined: Spiritual Formation refers to the need every human has to have his or her life shaped by God’s Spirit and re-created into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Sometimes called discipleship, sanctification, or transformation. This category contains all of these and more by emphasizing a holistic and organic approach to faith.

Summed up: “stay close to Jesus”

Practices: All of the traditional Christian disciplines of prayer, study, worship, service, meditation, fasting and so on are all part of our spiritual formation. These disciplines or practices are holistic because they include those that are lived out in both the corporate and personal dimensions of life.

Spiritual formation must be organic because it is within the context of our everyday lives that our faith grows. It is in our workaday worlds that we come to know Christ and grow to be more like him. Everything in life is grist for God’s mill. There is nothing in our lives that God will not use to make us more like Christ.

Most importantly, the primary practice of spiritual formation is living in a continual awareness of God’s presence and activity in Jesus Christ, through the Spirit. This means that our formation is not incidental. While God will use every circumstance to make us more like Christ we also need to cooperate by entering into an “on purpose” kind of life.

Question 1: What practices or disciplines have you found the most helpful as you seek to grow in Christlikeness?

Question 2: Are there any activities, normally considered helpful in the process of spiritual growth, that have been an obstacle for your growth

“she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.” – Luke 10:39

Continuing the Conversation … May 3

“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” – Acts 1:6

Ascension Sunday is an opportunity for us to recognize not only the event in Jesus’ life when he departed from his disciples and ascended to the Father but also the fact that:

  • God has given us the Holy Spirit (something we’ll discuss this week in Pentecost). The Holy Spirit is the real abiding presence of God in the life of his people.
  • Christ’s ascension highlights Jesus’ Lordship. Jesus is Lord, not merely over my personal life, but he is the Lord over the universe, over life, death, and every person, place, thing, idea, feeling, movement, zeitgeist, worldview, and so on that might resist the goodness of God’s Kingdom.
  • The Kingdom of God must be understood on God’s terms. That is, throughout the Gospels we see God’s Kingdom proclaimed and lived out through the life of the human, Jesus of Nazareth. The Kingdom looks like Jesus.

We should be encouraged by the fact that just prior to Jesus’ return to the Father he took time to restate that God’s Kingdom is God’s business. Being a part of what God is doing in the world requires that we, like the followers of Jesus gathered in Jerusalem that day, wait for God’s gift, the Holy Spirit – his abiding presence – and thus be empowered to live and breathe God’s Kingdom wherever we are.

I hope that this will give us peace and freedom:  1) A peace that will allow us to trust God more fully in the workings of this world especially when they look anything like Christ.  2) A freedom that will encourage us to participate wherever God leads, knowing that our imperfect decisions and half-competent actions will be redeemed in light of the Gospel.

The Kingdom looks like Jesus.

Brian McLaren Video…redux

mclaren.jpgLast week I posted “The Lord’s Prayer and the Kingdom: Pt. II” which included a video of Brian McLaren speaking about the phrase “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This video generated some very good comments which compel me to share a few more thoughts about the Kingdom and living in community.

First, the Gospel of God’s Kingdom is bigger. The message of God’s Kingdom is bigger than any one view or perspective of it. One thing that I love about McLaren is that he provokes dialogue more often than answers questions. In this way I think he often leads his readers or listeners to ask bigger, better questions. It’s OK not to agree with all of his conclusions when he provokes deeper thought on important issues.

Let us not be content to think of the Kingdom of God as we always have without asking God, once again, to help us see just how his Kingdom truly is “at hand”. (Matt 4:17)

Second, living in God’s Kingdom means living in a community. Kingdom life is life lived in relationship with other people. Being in relationship with other people also means that conflict and disagreements occur. The “rightness of the Kingdom Heart” requires that we interact with one another with deference, “in humility consider others better than yourselves”. (Phil 2:3)

This does not mean that we don’t have or express our opinions. It does mean that we hold these opinions with humility. Being passionate about a point of view is good. There are times when we need to challenge one another. We should think seriously about the difficult issues of our time but we should not think so seriously about ourselves that we forget the needs of those around us.

There is a lot in the McLaren video that I wholeheartedly agree with. There are some things that McLaren says in the video, and elsewhere, that gives me pause. As a community we can help one another discern what is worth keeping from that which isn’t.

Don’t feel compelled to trust Brian McLaren blindly, or anyone else for that matter. Think through what they say, engage the ideas that they bring, reflect thoughtfully on what Scripture says, and ask God’s Spirit to guide you to both understanding and action.

Third, our ability to be a part of one another’s lives in spite of disagreements is a testimony to the Gospel. God’s Kingdom needs all kinds of people. Some of us may lean right and others of us may lean to the left. Still others of us may not know which way we lean or if we lean at all. One of the most amazing things that we see in Scripture is who God uses: the rich and the poor, soldiers and centurions, whores, beggars, donkeys, and a few who are a part of the religious “in” crowd and many that are part of the religious “out” crowd. Remember these words from our study in Galatians?

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28

One of God’s greatest miracles is that he is inviting us all to participate in his work in the world, the work of His Kingdom. God takes all kinds and he makes them one.

May that always be the case with us.