And All God's People.....

I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd. John 10:16 (NLT)

This week I was blessed to be able to go to a church conference. The theme of the conference is based on discipleship and investing in people the way Jesus did. I am also blessed that my church invests in the mission of Jesus with their finances and support.

We’ve been on this journey with this same group of people over the last year. We’ve gotten together for three cohorts and discussed, worked through, listened to each other as we’ve talked about God’s kingdom. What are the steps forward? What should it look like? What are some of the obstacles we encounter and of course, how is God working?

The totally amazing thing is we are all from different denominations, different races, both sexes. And we all face similar challenges. But our one goal is the same. Share Jesus. He is our one true love. During this journey together, we’ve shared lots of praises and lots of heartaches. I have come to truly care about this group of people and their journey.

The last day at this conference, our leader gathered us together and we had communion. Words cannot explain how beautiful this was to me. We stood in a circle sharing the bread and the wine as we sang a hymn. Then we prayed. We prayed for God’s kingdom, for the journey he had us on and that his name would be glorified.

Friends, this is what God’s kingdom should look like. This is “My kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” All of God’s people working together for ONE goal. That goal is for all of God’s church (read people here) to love each other and work together so others can love Jesus as well.

Let’s put aside our differences. Deep down we all want the same thing. To love and honor Jesus with our lives. We will do this best together. I pray this weekend you too can connect with someone and know the bonding that comes from hearts reaching toward God.

You Are Cordially Invited To Invite

Should you be jealous because I am kind to others? Matthew 20:15 (NLT)

The parable of the workers (Matthew 20:1-16) is about a landowner who goes out and invites people to work in his fields. They agree on payment and go off to work. He does out again at various times of the day and does the same. When payment time comes, the folks who worked longer complained that their pay wasn’t fair. The landowner replies that they were given what they were promised.

In our Western society we read this parable and think “Well, that’s not fair.” The workers should have gotten paid their wages according to what they worked. That’s fair. In our world today, there would have been law suits, accusations of discrimination and all sorts of news stories.

But if we put on our Jesus hats, we would have the exact opposite response. We would say “Everyone come! The reward is the same for all! It doesn’t matter if you’ve worked your whole life or just entered into the banquet as the party was ending. Everyone gets to hear ‘Well done good and faithful servant!’”

We would want as many people to be invited as possible. We would be out there in the fields checking to make sure everyone was. I would venture to say that the Kingdom of Heaven is not fair…..really. Everyone who calls on Jesus as their Savior can get in. Doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do. Doesn’t matter if you come in late to the game. Doesn’t matter what you look like, where you are from, what you do or don’t do for a living. The only thing that matters if you say “Yes” to the invitation.

And since Jesus has asked us all to extend the invitation, we should be out there in the fields, on the streets, where ever we live, work and play being disciples. We should be inviting people in and when they say “I can’t I haven’t ___________________ (fill in the blank), let them know that all are welcome. Let them know that there is no entrance fee. Let them know how kind Jesus is to anyone that wants to come in.

And then, treat them like you mean it. Today, put on your Jesus hat and start inviting. And remember the Kingdom of Heaven is about not about who is first….it’s really about who is last.

Gotta Go

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” ‭Romans‬ ‭10:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

There are some days that make you feel like you are being tossed in gigantic waves. Heck, sometimes I feel like I can’t get out of the storm. I know you’ve experienced them too. When I have those days, I want to hide. Not literally, but hide in my quiet space.

I want to stay in my worship time for a long period and just look at Jesus. I feel at peace there. When I am there, it doesn’t matter if I know what tomorrow brings. It doesn’t matter what I will get accomplished today. The fact that things feel like they are burning down around me doesn’t even matter. It’s during these times that I want to stay where I am and not venture out into the big, bad world.

That truly is an option right? I mean obviously I have to go out to do some things like work, buy groceries, etc. but I could limit my exposure to only those necessary things. How then, would I reconcile my relationship with Jesus and his directive to “Go.” Go and get to know people. Go and love my sheep. Go and care for them. Give them a safe place.

My quiet time isn’t just for me to feel better. Sure, that’s part of it but it’s really to get my feet back on the dock as I am being tossed about. It’s so I can be recharged and refreshed. Then, as I am filled with what gives me strength and hope, I can “Go” and share that with others.

If the Jesus we know can offer us peace, strength, courage, love and fulfillment, wouldn’t we want others to experience that as well? I think so. I think the love we feel for him would drive us to love others more than we love our comfort.

So, on the days that I want to stay put and be comfortable, I remember. I remember that if Jesus did the same thing, I’d be lost. He left comfortable and safe so I could experience him. Maybe, just maybe, we should do the same.

Look! What's In That Tree?

A minute in Gods' word will change your life.  Read through the Bible text and ask yourself the questions at the bottom of the post.

1 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Luke 19:1-10 (NLT)

Did the fact that Zacchaeus was a sinner stop Jesus from getting to know him?
Why do you think Jesus stopped to talk to Zacchaeus when there were throngs of people all around him?
Do you think Jesus knew Zacchaeus was going to be looking for him?
Why do you think Jesus went to Zacchaeus home and spent time with him instead of just giving him a talk right there on the street?
What happened when Zacchaeus spent time with Jesus?
What happens when you do?

It Has To Be Personal

In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. Romans 8:3 (MSG)

One of the things I know is that life is messy. Everywhere you look, in most people you meet there is something that is not as it should be. We struggle with sin; sometimes choosing it over what we know is better. We live in the middle of the ripple effect of people that have chosen sin and deal with the damage it does to all those associated even in the slightest way. We see the horror on the news every day that results from those decisions.

In light of all this, I stand in amazement that Jesus would come, place himself smack in the middle of it. In the Message it says that he entered into the disordered mess of struggling humanity. Why? Because he loves us. Because living in this mess with us was better than living in heaven without us.  That thought gives a small glimpse into the power of his love.

It also gives us a glimpse of what our life is supposed to look like. When we love the way Jesus does, we will pour ourselves into the lives of the people God puts in our path. We will come alongside the messy and point to Jesus. Why do we get to do this? Because we showed up. Just like Jesus did.


Nana's Legacy

Therefore, go and make disciples....Matthew 28:19 (NLT)

When I was growing up, my grandmother was the first disciple maker I ever knew. She would come faithfully every weekend, pile all of us into her car and take us to church. Lest we misunderstand what a disciple-maker is, let's talk about what it is not.

Being a disciple maker is not about getting someone to church. As a matter of fact, that is the last thing it's about. Being a disciple maker is about pouring yourself into someone's life so they begin a relationship with Jesus. Of course, you can't pour out what you don't have so it also is about you being discipled as well. Who disciples you?  God. It's about listening to the Holy Spirit and following the leading of the Voice.

Back to my grandmother. Every day she spent time in prayer and with Jesus. I knew until the day she died that I was prayed over daily. She would call the house on a regular basis and talk to us. She was involved in what we were doing and every weekend she'd come pick us up and take us to church.

She was a disciple maker. She invested in the lives of those around her. She lifted  them up to the Lord daily, she was involved in the day-to-day and she reflected the love of Christ that was in her heart.

As I walk this journey of being a disciple of Jesus and discipling others, it had not occurred to me until just this weekend that I had witnessed this in action. Today, I am praising God for the folks who spoke Jesus into my life. Now, I have to go and do that for others.

Everyone Has A Story

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them. Mark 5:18-20 (NLT)

Jesus left. He is never going to push himself on us. He shows up and then waits for us to ask him to stay or tell him to leave. It's our choice. The folks of the town asked him to leave so he did.

But the man he healed wanted to go with him. He knew what it felt like to have God work in his life and he wanted more. But, as with all of us, Jesus had work for him to do. He had changed his life and people needed to know how. Jesus didn't ask him to get a degree and go into professional ministry. He didn't ask him to start a big non-profit to impact thousands. He asked him to go back to his family and friends, his neighborhood and tell everyone he knew what God had done for him.

The man did what Jesus asked.  And the Bible says they were amazed. Even though initially they didn't want to have anything to do with Jesus, by this man's personal testimony, their curiosity was peaked and they were willing to listen. By witnessing his life change, they were willing to hear more. Because of his story, they were amazed.

What about you? Do you share your story with others? God gives us each a story. He wants us to tell it because in every single story he is in the middle of it.  That's what people need to see.

First From His Hands

Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. Luke 9:16 (NLT)

This verse is from the story where Jesus fed the 5,000 (that number didn't count the families with them). The crowd had been following him around all day. The disciples were ready to send them home to fend for themselves but Jesus had another idea. He pushed the disciples to come up with a plan to feed them. He asked them for suggestions but they were stumped. It looked like an impossible situation. And from a human perspective, it was.

Queue the Jesus factor. We don't queue this a lot. We look at our situations and say "Nope, impossible. Let's all go home." But Jesus always has another idea and another plan. What I love about this story is Jesus' personal involvement. The disciples brought him the fish, he thanked God for them and then with his own hands he broke the loaves and fish into the portions needed for the people and gave them to the disciples to hand out.

Could Jesus have just said "divide into multiple pieces enough for everyone" and then looked at the disciples and said, "There you go, pass them out." Yes. But he didn't. He handled each piece of food and gave the food to the disciples to distribute.

I think Jesus is still working this way. We look at our situation. We call it impossible. Jesus says "How about this?" and gives us our portion to digest and be filled. Then he says, take what I've given you and pass it on. Share it so others can be filled also.

This salvation thing is never meant to be isolated between us and God. It is always meant to be re-given, over and over again. As many times as Jesus hands you food, that is how many times you are to share it with others.