Sunday, May 20, 2018

MORE!

Some who have read this far may think the picture I have drawn for this all-in life is some sort of 21st century marketing hype for Jesus. You may have watched other Christians or been one yourself for a long time, and this is not your experience. Instead of letting Scripture cut across the fiber of our flesh, we unknowingly attempt to bring Christianity down to our experience. If so, each of us now knows too much to fool ourselves any longer. And if we can’t get out of life, then let’s plunge fully into life. Experiment for one year as if this is all true. It is! Plus much more.

I have not always walked out this journey well. Discouragement still plagues me at times, yet I have learned to “bounce well.” Certainly, I have attempted to be faithful on my journey. However, God’s steadfast faithfulness keeps me on track, not my performance. In God’s big-picture move through history, He always works through a remnant, a smaller part of the whole, those who are all-in. For instance, Jesus poured His life into the Twelve, focusing on the few in order to reach the many. Make no mistake. Jesus passionately pursues the entire world to restore each one to intimacy with His Father. His strategy, however, focuses on the committed remnant with full allegiance, trained to see beyond today.

As I reflect on my life, the best summary of my journey is “more.” Not more that I receive since I believe we received all we ever need at salvation. But more that we appropriate or fully embrace. Reflect.
  • If God is Father, Son and Spirit, full of eternal life, love and light, and we are His image-bearers, it only makes sense if we intend to grow into Christlikeness that God will reveal more.
  • If God’s Word is His Love-letter to His Bride where we hear His voice and feel His heartbeat, then there is more for us there.
  • If we are servant-warriors of the King of kings and He has given us His delegated authority, then more open doors await us.
  • If God instantly restored us as His beloved children and His beautiful bride when we came to Christ, then more is available in relationship with Him and with others.
  • If God causes all things to work together for good for His people, then as we penetrate the depths of trials and tough times in our lives, He has more good treasures for us.
  • If His initiating first-love constantly pours into our lives like the sands of the sea, as I respond with “Here I am, Lord. I’m all-in with You,” we will experience more of His surrounding love.
  • One great danger in the Christian life is to “settle.” If God is the God of “more,” then the only sane response is: “Full allegiance, Jesus!”

This is Reflection #50 in my book, Foundation Stones. I also have a web-site with tools, books and "more than Bible studies" that have helped me to live out of this spiritual DNA. You may want to explore www.JimFredericks.com

Saturday, May 19, 2018

All-in Wholehearted Allegiance

A diligent social research scientist studied people for ten years. Paraphrasing her three-fold conclusion: (1) “wholeheartedness” provides the most crucial key for healthy lives since people exist for connection; (2) a deep sense of shame debilitates people, breaking connection and undermining wholeheartedness; (3) most conclude the world is unsafe.

Kudos on excellent observations…directly from Genesis 1-3! The Fall severed this connected relationship, resulting in guilt, shame and a deep sense of unworthiness (Gen. 2:25). God designed us to give Him full allegiance (wholehearted). In turn He gives us Himself, which includes healthy connections with people, freedom from shame and a safe haven.

Kudos, yet she appears to have no compelling answer how we live a wholehearted life. And more particularly, wholehearted toward Whom?

As we begin to answer life’s two essential questions more accurately (“What is God like? “How does this God see and know me?”), we move towards a healthier, more connected life. When we see God as He truly is, we gladly commit our full allegiance to the King of all kings. We are all-in, wholehearted, which is the only completely sane response to three such amazing Friends (Romans 12:1).

In Genesis 3, Satan deceived Eve with three implied questions. “Am I enough?” “Am I worthy?” “Am I loveable as I now am?” Eve dialoged with our enemy. She falsely answered all three, “NO.” She attempted to carve out her own answers separate from God, eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The serpent deceived Adam and Eve to grasp for what God had already freely given them as their heritage. This same deceitful strategy lies at the heart of sin today, our illegitimate attempt to meet legitimate, God-given needs in our own way and with our own resources. As God’s redeemed children, we must know ourselves as God does, or we will fall for the devil’s traps.

In a word, God wants us to be wholehearted for Him. If we answer any of the three questions above in the negative, it undermines God’s provision. Then we believe God failed us in some way. Especially in tough times, we must know God is our all in all. Jesus shouts, “Yes, you are more than enough, worthy because of Me!”
 
Knowing ourselves as unconditionally loved transforms the way we look at God, ourselves and the world. It releases our God-given creativity and ingenuity, turning us into agile, servant-first prepared influencers with the skill of learning on the fly. Develop confidence that you (and others trained like this) learn to process new info and make course adjustments, working toward solutions to each problem on our journey. “Have it all, Lord!”

This is Reflection #49 in my book, Foundation Stones. I also have a web-site with tools, books and "more than Bible studies" that have helped me to live out of this spiritual DNA, www.JimFredericks.com

Friday, May 18, 2018

90 Minute Extended Time of Prayer

Come with a heart prepared for worship. Perhaps fast a meal. Keep short accounts with God. Come unencumbered, without your to-do list or thoughts of what you have scheduled next. Don’t bring a mobile device or other distractions. Do bring a Bible, notebook, writing device and perhaps some water to drink. Feast on how satisfied our Family-of-Three is with you. And arrive a few minutes early so you are not rushed.

1. Begin on time with ten minutes of worship by “popcorn” praise to God. Pray short bursts of prayer praise and thanksgiving, focused on who God is and what He has done. Or a CD with worship.

2. Then read a Psalm around the group. Note quick “uplifts” to share as popcorn responses with the group. This is fast paced, about ten minutes total just to prime the pump, although you may want to begin your private time with more time in this  Psalm.

3. Break up into space where you will not be interrupted in your private prayers, thirty minutes. Don’t go so far that you don’t get back in time. Don’t pair up. This is for you and God alone together.

a. Private prayer of praise: Tell Him how very much you adore Him.

b. Listen: Take some time interspersed throughout (more if you do alone) so God can speak to you. Expect your Father to speak and journal it.

c. Confess: Hopefully you have come without unresolved issues between you and God. Confess how very much you need God and give yourself to Him. At times, He reveals what we are unaware of. Make it right.

d. Ask: For purpose, clarity, priorities; for family, friends, your needs…or whatever else is on your heart.

4. Call the group back to debrief together, about twenty minutes. How did you hear God’s voice in your private time of prayer? Our confidence rests more in His ability to speak than in our expertise to hear. What did this focused time of prayer mean for you? Could an extended time of prayer be something you may want to add to your normal rhythm of life? If so when and how often?

5. Finish with the remainder of the time (twenty minutes) interceding together for each other and for the spiritual life of the church and city. Keep your prayers focused on personal requests. Feel free to pray more than once. Pray conversationally, meaning we pray for a person or topic for a while, like we converse with one another, before moving on to a different topic and person.

6. Whomever is leading, watch the time so that we dismiss on time after 90 minutes, honoring others’ time. Some may want to voluntarily hang out longer, which is fine.

This is Reflection #48 in my book, Foundation Stones. I also have a web-site with tools, books and "more than Bible studies" that have helped me to live out of this spiritual DNA, www.JimFredericks.com

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Jesus Invites Us into His Epic Crusade

In Matthew 28:18-20, our Commander-in-Chief issues our marching orders, “make disciples of all people groups.” Many call this the “Great Commission” because it’s so crucial to understand our call, even though it’s one of five commissions. Notice first the context. Jesus had just been raised from the dead through the power of the Father, breaking the chains of death. Through faith in Jesus Christ, a sure way now exists for the Father to restore relationship. Before His death, Jesus had instructed the eleven disciples to return to Galilee after His resurrection. What a bold statement for one about to die! And they obeyed, some worshipping Him and some doubting, just like us today (Matthew 28:16-17).

First focus on the two “bookends” that surround the one command to “make disciples.” Jesus has universal authority throughout all space and time. The “therefore” in verse 19 implies what other Scripture makes clear. Jesus now delegates His authority to His people. We carry His authority. Jesus then concludes with the encouraging words that He is perpetually present wherever we go and whatever we do and say (28:20). What assurance, His authority and His presence until the end of the ages!

This commission only has one command, “make disciples of every people group,” with three descriptors showing us how to do this. In the 1st century, a disciple was one who learns from a person in an interactive, question/answer, life-to-life way, rather than only from books or in classrooms. The world was Jesus’ classroom so He taught both formally and informally on the go. Jesus discipled the Twelve in primary groups of three or four (gathered together as the Twelve). What He taught flowed from who He was, so they saw Him up-close-and-personal. They were changed as they beheld (2 Cor 3:18). Jesus’ strategy is timeless, working to make disciples in any culture at any time since the world is on His heart. And how can we make learners or followers of Jesus today?
  • Evangelize (“go”): The Father sends us to live life outwardly as His witnesses in the world, just like He sent His Son, Jesus.
  • Enfold (“baptize”): Baptize means to plunge fully in. Our water baptism testifies that we belong to God through faith in Christ. For the church body, baptism signifies this person is immersed or enfolded into our faith-community for mutual support/care.
  • Equip (“teach to do”): Not just teaching information; a lifestyle of willing obedience to multiple other followers (Ezra 7:10).
Jesus’ simple plan is spiritual multiplication with a solid spiritual DNA. Four grow together, then become 16; 16 to 64 in three spiritual generations, multiplying faith-communities as small as 3-5 people. Are you becoming more like Jesus and bringing others along with you?

This is Reflection #46 in my book, Foundation Stones. I also have a web-site with tools, books and "more than Bible studies" that have helped me to live out of this spiritual DNA, www.JimFredericks.com

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Three Dynamic Pictures

New believers in the 1st century responded quickly out of Christlike character with the upward response (worship/prayer), outward response (mission), and inward response (agile disciple-making in community to mature and multiply).

Who would have thought that this one generation would indirectly impact hundreds of millions to follow Jesus?
 
Our Team-of-Three plants His people in soil with all three “cultures” or “nutrients” necessary for thriving growth. Community (inward response of Family, cultivating us as beloved children, training together for the Family biz” with community- and Word-based growth fused with the Spirit). Mission (outward response of the Kingdom, thrusting us out into the world as servant/warriors with full allegiance to our Team-of-Three on our quest to battle for the hearts of the lost world of people). Worship (upward response with the picture of Marriage, emphasizing personal intimacy with God, His availability and connectedness).
 
As you develop spiritually, the catalytic intersection of all three together becomes a “force multiplier.” No wonder God’s plan is not just to add disciples, but to multiply disciples as we form faith-communities like our Family-of-Three. Like his Master before him, Paul built through small, primal groups, from the bottom up, life-on-life. The fruit of an apple tree is not ultimately an apple, but other apple trees. The fruit of a community is other communities. Jesus’ ministry sweet spot is both wide and deep, His “miracle grow!” Intend to reproduce!
 
As His people, we are caught up into God’s plan for the ages. He invites us into the awesome privilege to partner with Him…before we fully understand Him and His plans. Our little stories now have eternal meaning because they are lived out within His eternal story, a ministry that is both wide and deep. The same God who spoke the entire universe into existence desires to partner with us in Jesus’ ongoing epic crusade as one of His intimate allies. His unfinished mission defines our destiny together since He uses us as His touch and His voice to draw others in.
 
We undermine the mystery and God’s power to transform if we undervalue either of the three dynamic pictures. This healthy blend of all three responses flowing from “Christ in us, our life” are essential. Insist on compassionate mission; invest in intimate worship; inflame life-on-life community. As we experience His pulsating life as lifelong life-learners and doers, pass it along. God intends to use you and me since He created us as fully engaged partners. Who is God now highlighting to you?

This is Reflection #45 in my book, Foundation Stones. I also have a web-site with tools, books and "more than Bible studies" that have helped me to live out of this spiritual DNA, www.JimFredericks.com

Monday, May 14, 2018

Judging or Discerning?

In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus teaches on a very crucial topic for interpersonal relationships. Judging is a big-time community breaker. Judging shuts down openness in the one being judged and severely hampers the one judging from experiencing life to the full. When we judge, we “play God,” usurping God’s unique role as the One and Only Judge. He is the only One who can both love and judge at the same time.

Jesus begins in 7:1-2 by simply commanding us not to judge…no exceptions. Judging injures all parties. We will be judged by whatever measure we use in judging others. What a powerful motivation! Which of us wants to be judged by others? Judging has at least two clear marks.
  1. Judging imposes our own standards on others, even if we Christians quote our personal interpretation of Bible verses.
  2. Judging evaluates the other negatively, speaking down on or against them, even if only in our hearts (James 4:11-12).
God designed us as image-bearers to observe accurately, leading to healthy discernment. In Matthew 7:20, Jesus instructs His people to discern true from false believers by their fruit. God designed us to observe and test ourselves and others against a life lived out like Jesus so we may grow. We must observe/discern or we cannot practice the NT commands of Galatians 6:1 and Matthew 18:15.

Since the Fall in Genesis 3, observation now easily degenerates into devastating judgment. So how do I differentiate between observing/ discerning and judging?
 
In the humorous story in 7:3-5, Mr. Plank observed a speck in the eye of Mr. Speck. The observation was accurate. Jesus commanded Mr. Plank first to discern the plank in his own eye to develop compassion, or he is a play actor (“hypocrite”). First discern and deal quickly with our own stuff. “Does observation first turn within, using the event as a mirror to reflect on my inner life (discern) or first look down on the other (judge)?”
 
Judging or discrimination holds this against them; discernment holds it for them to help. Release life by asking: “What is their real need?” Then Mr. Plank sees more accurately to come alongside Mr. Speck to help him align with God’s ways, if he is willing (7:6). We desperately need others to speak life into us (Gal 6:1).
  1. Judging imposes our values on others; discerning looks through God’s perfect standard to focus on what is clear and crucial.
  2. Judging unfavorably places us above the other; discerning agrees that we are still in-process; then builds up others as equals.
  3. Judging eyes unseen motives (“You meant to…”); discerning, visible fruit. Only God is able simultaneously to love and judge.
This is Reflection #43 in my book, Foundation Stones. I also have a web-site with tools, books and "more than Bible studies" that have helped me to live out of this spiritual DNA, www.JimFredericks.com

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Four Soils of the Heart

It’s crucial how we listen as we study Scripture.


As an illustration, look at the parable of the four soils in Mark 4. Jesus finishes the parable by calling His disciples to listen attentively (4:9). When His disciples were alone with Jesus, He took the initiative to explain the parable (His way of training them after the “basics”). This parable is so crucial that Jesus explained: if His disciples have difficulty understanding this, how could they understand any teaching (4:14)? The seed is the Word of God sown into people, with four different conditions of their heart in this particular season. God’s Word, His Love-letter to us, is sown:

First, along a trampled path. Over the years, the enemy of our soul has incited people to trample on hearts. Jesus says that Satan comes and snatches away the Word as soon as they hear, before it germinates.

Second, on shallow soil where the rock beneath the thin layer of soil has not been broken up to allow the roots to sink deeply. They initially receive the Word with joy, but quickly turn away when hard times come.

Third, on distracted soil. The soil is fertile and so bears fruit. Fruit is quickly choked though by three very common practices in our society. The worries of this life; the deceitfulness of wealth; the desires for other things. Fertile soil will grow more than just good seed.

Fourth, on good soil. They have prepared their hearts to hear, accept, and respond, thus producing a flourishing crop of fruitful increase.

What is the state of your heart as you approach God’s Word? Which one soil best represents your heart today? ________________________

  1. Trampled Soil: Satan immediately comes alongside and you listen to Satan’s whispered lies. “You will never understand this.” “Others maybe; not you” “You are not enough.” “You don’t measure up.”
  2. Shallow Soil: Have you allowed the tough times of your past or present life to make you bitter or better? We all experience the hot water of trials…none are exempt. Place an egg, potato and coffee beans in the same hot water. One hardens, one softens and one releases flavor. What is the state of your heart? Has it been cultivated and prepared for a rich harvest by good responses to tough times?
  3. Distracted Soil: Is your life full of worries about tomorrow, chasing after wealth and a desire to have more stuff than you now have? These very common societal goals will crowd out the Word of God in our hearts so truth does not have room to flourish in us.
  4. Fruitful Soil: This is what Jesus is after, a life that produces a 30-, 60- and even 100-fold increase in what He sows. God’s grace provides what is necessary for us to be able to respond quickly.

This is Reflection #42 in my book, Foundation Stones. I also have a web-site with tools, books and "more than Bible studies" that have helped me to live out of this spiritual DNA, www.JimFredericks.com