Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Love One Another Part 1

The Centrality of Love in Discipling Communities

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” --John--

Disciples of Jesus are made within the context of relationships characterized by love. Therefore, true Christian community is characterized by love. Unfortunately it is much easier to go through the motions of leading or attending Bible study and never really experience receiving or giving the kind of love that we are told is THE mark of the Family of God.

Our Life Communities will be successful only if we are pursuing to cultivate Jesus centered love relationships with each other.

Honestly, as I sit and write about this I am overwhelmed. It is mostly because to think that I can communicate the depth of what it means to love one another as the Bible defines it through writing is pretty ridiculous. Another reason I am overwhelmed is because I have been loved in this way and it is truly humbling.

Over and over the News Testament tells us that love for one another is a huge deal. It is not an add-on or an elective. Love is what identifies our communities as communities of faith in Jesus Christ. Anybody can dispense information but it takes men and women of God to truly love in the way Jesus told us to.

Here are a few examples from scripture that show the importance of love for one another.

“Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” – John 13:1

“A new command I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By THIS all men will know that you are my disciples, IF you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father had loved me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” – John 15:8-9

“This is my commandment, that you love one another, JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.” – John 15:12

“This I command you, that you love one another.” – John 15:17

“I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” – John 17:26

“For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOUR SELF.” – Gal. 5:14

“Beyond all these things, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” – Col. 3:14

“This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” – 1 John 3:23

“Beloved let us love one another for love is form God….the one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” – 1 John 4:7-8

The list could go on and on. I have barely scratched the surface. What amazes me is how much of Jesus’ teachings to His disciples in those last hours was about love. He could have said and done a lot of things but He loved them and challenged them to love.

My fear is that we are so accustomed to reading the word “love” in the Bible and hearing it said in the world with no real meaning, that we have become desensitized to the power and depth that Biblical love for one another holds.

The point is that for us to be (as communities of believers) who God wants us to be then we must pursue to love in the way that He loves. We have to understand that when we gather in our Life Communities and walk along side of each other (and just live life as disciples of Jesus) we need to be praying and asking God to help us love. If we do not do that, we miss the point.

Part 2 will be “What is Biblical Love For One Another”

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Praying for Your Life Community

Prayer is a non-negotiable in the Kingdom of God and in the nurturing of an environment of life transformation. Not praying would be like me telling you to fly to the moon, then giving you a space shuttle, providing all the training you need, all the equipment you need, all of the instructions, a place to launch from, and then you saying “no thank you I will just walk outside and start flapping my arms”. Unfortunately we do that too often in the Christian life. God has said over and over in His Word that if we will pray He will do great things. But we choose not to pray and expect great things anyway. When we don’t pray we miss out on what God wants to do.

Here are 5 things that I believe you should pray for your Life Community.

That God would bring the people He desires into your Life Community
As Jesus was in the process of choosing His 12 he went away to pray (Luke 6:12). It is important to remember that Jesus was always motivated but what the Father wanted and He didn’t do anything without the Father’s initiative. We should not take lightly the call to ask God to create the community that He wants.

That they would value what Jesus values, the glory of God.
The glory of God was what motivated Jesus. He always sought to do what pleased the Father because He knew that was the greatest source of joy in life. Everyday students are bombarded with the opportunity to “exchange the glory of God for a lie”. That temptation may come in the form of an unhealthy relationship to believing that pursuing money will be more satisfying than knowing Jesus Christ. Pray that they would be worshippers of Jesus alone.

That they would live a life of sacrificial love for one another.
Jesus told His disciples that the world would know they were His by the quality of their love for one another (John 13:34-35). Pray that those in your community would be united in love for each other as Jesus prayed, “that they may be one even as We are.” Pray this so that those around them who do not know Jesus would be able to see that Jesus is real.

That they would persevere in trials.
Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would remain strong when he was tested (Luke 22:31-32). As you know, your fellow students face every temptation imaginable on the campus. As brothers and sisters in Christ it is our responsibility and privilege to fight with them and for them in prayer. Pray that their faith would remain and that God would grant them victory over trials and temptations.

That they would be used to change the world.
I believe that all Christians on campus are “workers for the harvest”. You need to pray that they would see themselves as world changers and be obedient to God’s call to the mission field they are on. Pray that they would be used to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth through their time on campus.

I love these two passages. They challenge me deeply in regards to prayer. They are amazing promises.

Jeremiah 33:3
“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

John 16:12-14
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

Creating an Environment for Life Transformation - Part 2

A couple of Ingredients that help foster Intimacy

1) Transparency – Another way to put this is to say that the leader must take risks with himself. Others in the Life Community will see that it is safe to be open and honest only as the leader models that himself. This is very risky but when done under the leadership of the Holy Spirit it can open the door for others to be honest about themselves.

Have you ever thought about Jesus as being transparent? Scripture indicates that as time went by He revealed more and more of who He was. At the start of His ministry with the disciples He simply said “come follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mat. 4:19). He did not tell them everything about Himself or about what was going to happen. It was just the first invitation to follow. By the end of His investment in them He said, “I no longer call you servants but I call you friends, for all things I have heard from my father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Then in a huge act of transparency He says to His disciples, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with me” (Matt. 26:37).

The One who is the “Head over every authority” said to His creation “My soul is sorrowful, stay with me.” That blows my mind. But, I see this as a model because the disciples were able to see how Jesus related to the Father in his most sorrowful moment so far in His life. It was a moment of great intimacy.

Those we disciple need to see how we walk with God in our hardest moments. We need to be open to having those we disciple sit with us while we hurt.

Some insights I have learned about this.
1) We miss out on the power of God in the Body when we are not transparent.
2) It is hard…but when done by the leading of the Holy Spirit it is life transforming.
3) It takes wisdom and discernment. You don’t want to throw all your trash on the table on day one.
4) It is still hard…there will be times when you are transparent and people will turn their back on you…but we still need to model it in faith.
5) Moments of true transparency are moments orchestrated by the Holy Spirit to teach us how to love one another.

2. Time and Patience – All I really want to say about this is that we do not need to be frustrated if intimacy does not happen fast. True intimacy takes time. The relationship I have with Brent, Josh, and Brett took time. We can not force it but we can be faithful to one another through caring and encouraging one another in the Lord so that the stage is set for the Holy Spirit to move when He wants to move. Paul says they were gentle and caring like a mother and encouraging like a father…laboring night and day (1 Thess 2:7-12). Be patient. Be faithful. Pray for intimacy to come.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Creating an Environment for Life Transformation

Creating an Environment for Life Transformation – Part 1
Doug Hunt

It is important to remember that a Biblical community is evidenced by life change. We should never multiply groups just to multiply groups. Multiplication is the natural overflow of lives being changed by Jesus Christ. So the questions before us are, “What are the ingredients of life transforming community?” and “What can a leader do to foster this type of environment?”

I was recently reminded of what it feels like to be among a group of followers of Jesus where it is completely safe to be completely “me”. I was sitting with Brent, Josh, and Brett and I knew that I could reveal the deepest and darkest things about my life to them and their response would be love. I knew that they could do the same and my response would have been love. We have truly shared our some of our greatest and some of our hardest moments in life and walked with each other no matter what. We rallied around each other. We celebrated victory over sin together. We celebrated life change together. We rebuked each other and carried each other’s burdens.

It is what I call an environment of TRUST AND INTAMACY. I define trust in this context as “having the confidence to be who you really are without the fear of judgment or retaliation.” I recently read this definition of intimacy; it is a familiar and very close affective connection with another as a result of entering deeply or closely into relationship through knowledge and experience of the other.

I believe that many times we enter in to small groups that never reach this deep of a level of trust and intimacy. When that happens we are never really sharing our souls that need to encounter the Holy Spirit among us. When we do reach that depth, the Holy Spirit has the space to change us in profound ways.

Here are a couple of ingredients that help foster TRUST.

Humility – My favorite passage that shows this is Matthew 11:28-30 when Jesus says “Come to me all who are weary…learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart.” This is the only passage where Jesus describes His own heart and He chooses two unimpressive words, gentleness and humility. What I also love is that He uses them in the context of teaching for the soul.

Another passage that helps us is 1 Thess. 2:5-6. Paul says that he, Silvanus, and Timothy “did not come with flattering speech…nor with a pretext for greed-God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men”

These passages tell me that in order to create an environment of where life change can happen we must not be doing it for our gain or to prove something or to boost our pride. The point is to create a place where those who participate know that they are valued and it takes a leader who is pursuing a humble and selfless heart for that to happen. No one likes a prideful leader.

One Way that Humility Shows itself in community– Listening. Too often we view leading a small group as our chance to have the platform with the expectation that everyone should listen to us. We do need to teach the Word because it is the power, but we also need to listen to the stories and struggles of those in our midst. People who come into our Life Communities will bring all types of issues both good and bad. We need to always be aware of these things and the way we do that is by asking and truly listening. Power comes when we are able to ask the questions like “How are you” and “what is on your heart” and then just listen to understand the other person. When we are truly listening we can have a better sense of how the Word can help transform them.

Have you ever been truly listened to when the person you were talking to was not just trying to “fix” you? Or when they did not act like they had all the answers?

I know from my own experience that when I have been listened to I feel valued and my trust level for the other person goes up tremendously.

Integrity – The leader must be leading the community towards words matching actions. There is a great deal of skepticism in our world that is due in large part to hypocrisy or saying one thing and acting another way. Paul says in 1 Thess. 1:5 that their “gospel did not come in word only but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” Paul also said in 1 Thess. 2:10, “You are witnesses and so is God how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved towards you.”

The power of God was seen among them as they lived out their convictions, proving that Jesus was worth following.

We as leaders make some of our biggest mistakes right here. We can’t say that we love people then make derogatory jokes about certain groups of people. We can’t tell people to sacrifice for others if we do not do it ourselves. We can’t preach holiness and then live in sin. We lose the trust of those we are trying to disciple when our faith and our lives to not match up.

Challenge: Ask someone you know to tell you their story. Listen for the ways that God has shaped them. Ask them question to learn more.

Challenge: Ask someone that you trust if they see any things in your life where your words have the potential to not match up with your actions? Ask them to pray with you about those things.