Sunday, August 17, 2014

Evaluating Your Sentness - How do We Live Like Jesus Now?

Classical Greek philosopher, Socrates, famously said, "The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being." When was the last time you examined, or evaluated, your Christian life? Fortunately there's Jesus.
In John 20:21 Jesus appears to his disciples for the first time after his resurrection with these words: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Clearly, Jesus words are a call to live like him and to do what he did. But do we realize he sends us out to do what he did and to live as he did, once we decide to follow him? All indications are that too few actually do. Fortunately there's Jesus.
Jesus fully expected his followers to live as he was sent. How then did Jesus live and what did he do that should, or actually must, inform and define our lives as his followers? Answering that question can go a long way toward evaluating our sentness. 
You no doubt know the famous old Christian question "what would Jesus do?" It is offered as a way to begin to think about how Jesus might handle any given issue or challenge we face. It's a good question to ask but it is insufficient. There are issues and challenges we face that Jesus, or the Bible, does not directly answer.
The better question to ask is: "what did Jesus do?"
Jesus gave us much to consider in how he lived and modeled life for this followers. In fact, the Apostle John tells us he did so many things they could not all be recorded (John 21:25). But knowing some of the things that Jesus did do will serve us well in living like him, at least trying to do it better than we have.
I am presently reading Marvin Newell's book "Commissioned - What Jesus wants you to know as you go." Writing about John 20:21 in Chapter 2 titled "The Model for Mission", Newell provides a list of 14 statements Jesus made about himself, which can help to answer the question of the "what did Jesus do?"
Newell suggests we should incorporate these 14 points into our personal lives and mission. I think they can serve as a good metric to examine our life by. Knowing these 14 is a good place to begin to answer to the question, "How do we live like Jesus?"
To the 14 points, I have added a question to help evaluate sentness. Ask yourself how you are doing with respect to each point:
Mission: "For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost." (Luke 19:10)..."so I am sending you." - Q: Does my life reflect a desire to seek and save the lost?
Motivation: "I work for the honor of the one who sent me" (John 7:18 paraphrase)...."so I am sending you." - Q: Does my life move consistently in the direction of bringing honor to the Father?
Objective: "I come that may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10)...."so I am sending you." - Q: Does my life seek to produce Jesus' life in others?
Offer: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)..."so I am sending you" Q: Does my life serve to alleviate the burdens of others?
Focus: "I came not to call the righteous, but sinner (to repentance) (Matthew 9:13),,."so I am sending you." Q: Does my life reflect change that others can emulate?
Will: "My food is to the the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work" John 4:34...."so I am sending you." Q: Does my life demonstrate I live for God's purposes?
Relationships: "The Son of Man has a friend of tax collectors and sinners." (Luke 7:34)..."so I am sending you." Q: Does my life touch the lives of others who don't know Jesus?
Teamwork: "And he appointed twelve so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach" (Mark 3:14)...."so I am sending you." Q: Does my life serve well the team God has given me, where he has put me?
Servanthood: "...the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve" (Matthew 20:28)) I am sending you." Q: Does my life show a servant attitude?
Personality: "...Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29)..."so I am sending you." Q: Does my life prove that I am always learning?
Approval: "....I always do the things that are pleasing to him" (Joh 8:29)...."so I am sending you." Q: Does my life find purpose in living to please the Father?
Ownership: "....the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (John 8:20)...."so I am sending you." Q: Does my life demonstrate that I hold things loosely knowing they are temporary but hold tightly to Jesus in all things?
Compassion: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:26)..."so I am sending you." Q: Does my life demonstrate compassion for those less fortunate?
Finishing Well: "I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you sent me to do." (John 17:4"..."so I am sending you. Q: Does my life glorify God by living to do all things well?
These are some of the things that Jesus did do. These 14 points can serve as a metric to guide our lives by. I hope you did honestly examine your life against the questions? It is only be doing so that we can being to live like Jesus. Evaluating myself against this list, tells me I have much work to do. Fortunately there's Jesus.
In my first book, "Ethnic Embrace USA - Blessings the Nations Among Us" I wrote about several other things Jesus was sent to do, that he also sends his followers in like fashion to do. There I wrote:
"Jesus was sent on a mission of love and love must be our primary motivation for mission because it was his for coming (John 13:34).Jesus was sent on a mercy mission and sends us to be merciful (Luke 6:36). Sent as a sacrifice, he calls us to a life of sacrifice (Luke 14:27). He was sent as a servant and calls us to the life of a servant (Mark 9:35). Jesus was sent as a reconciler and we have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19). He was sent with a sense of urgency for the least, last and lost (see the 3 parables of Luke 15) and so we are likewise 'sent.'"
"Jesus was sent as the “Prince of Peace” and sends us out in his “Peace.” His peace is not simply the cessation of hostility among peoples but a sense of wholeness for all peoples, what the Hebrews called shalom. His“Peace” is to be our message as well (Acts 10:36). He was also sent with a sense of anticipation for greater things to come and we should be motivated by the greater glory still to be revealed (John 14:12)."
Knowing the answer to the question, "what did Jesus do?" goes a long way toward answering the question "how do we live like Jesus?" These certainly are not new ideas but they are important ones to inform us daily, to help us evaluate our sentness.
Understanding life from a place of sentness moves us beyond the materialistic and meaningless into a place of motivated mission with appreciation of the magnitude of all Christ is for us, with us, through us toward living sent today. Fortunately there's Jesus.
What else can be added to the list of metrics to evaluate sentness?
Visit my personal ministry website @ There you can follow the release of my new book - "God I.N.C. - Finding Your Place in the Family Business," which will be released as a FREE ebook. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Needed: Issachar Leaders

1 Chronicles 12:32, says that the men of Issachar understood the times and knew what Israel should do. That's called leadership.
In 1 Chronicles 12 we also find a list of the tribes readying for battle. Each tribe is listed with the number of men preparing - in several cases tens of thousands. But it is only of the men of Issachar that we read "200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command" were ready. That is leadership influence.
We are not told how large the tribe of Issachar is relative to the other tribes. It is interesting though that Issachar stands alone as both understanding the times and knowing what to do, which I think we can safely assume was due to their "chiefs", whose priorities were no doubt in line with their king. Leadership matters.
There is direct correlation between leadership and readiness. The chiefs of Issachar understood the battle they were entering and what was at stake. Because they did, they knew what to do and had the confidence of "all their relatives" who followed them to go do it, 
Today, as leaders, do we understand the times and know what to do? If you're reading this I assume you are a leader, at least in some capacity. Are your priorities in line with the Lord's for such a time as this? Let me suggest we need to do better.
Many Christians are looking nervously at what is happening in the world today, with ongoing conflict in Gaza, the horrors of Iraq, broader Ukraine war a looming possibility and global problems elsewhere. Apprehensions grow due to the rise of radical Islam and a growing threat of mother Russia. Many express troubled doubts and dismay about the future of our world.
On the homefront, we have many issues - a border crisis, economic woes, a lack of moral clarity and a dysfunctional Federal government. Ebola is now being talked about as a threat to the U.S., St. Louis riots, and the dollar may collapse at any time even as the cost of living consistently increases. Few Americans have confidence in the leadership of our nation to bring hope and change.
Those are the things we see in the news every day. As Christ followers, however, we are not called to live by sight but by faith.
What we need today are men and women of Issachar, offering informed leadership for the family of God to follow. Presently, however, best estimates are that only 1 in 100 Evangelical Christians has any meaningful role in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), the very thing Jesus told us to invest our lives in. Too few are really following our Commander-in-Chief the way he modeled and calls his 'family' to.
Regardless of what we see happening in the world around us the task that Jesus gave us to do is where we must focus until he comes again. The problem is that task isn't well understood, so it's easy to see only the rising storm clouds. But it is not like our Lord didn't tell us what was coming.
Jesus told us to expect wars and rumors of wars, turmoil and tumult, growing chaos through this present age. Just read Matthew 24 for the signs of the end of the age. The Lord also says though, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened." (Matthew 24:22). It may get even worse than we see today but Jesus gives us great hope for the future. Real change is coming!
The tribulations will not last forever, a new day will break forth, Kingdom order will be established and Eden will be restored (see Revelation 22). Of that we can be sure. And what's really amazing is that King Jesus gives us a role to play toward that end when he says: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:14). Until that "end" we have work to do.
Understanding the times must give us an "all nations" focus because that is Jesus focus, as well as his command in the Great Commission. Knowing what to do today must serve a Great Commission priority to those who have no knowledge of who Jesus is for them, because that is God's priority. The knowledge of his glory will fill the earth (Habakkuk 2:14).
We need to understand God has each of us here for a reason, which has everything to do with his plans and purposes - not our own. Could be it that these "end time" battles are intensifying because we draw near to the completion of the Great Commission and so the enemy is making one final assault before these days are "shortened"? Perhaps.
We don't know the time of his coming (Matthew 24:42) or when we will be able to say the task is finished. What we do know is the following:
4,000 languages remain without a completed Bible
3,000 people groups remain without a single Christian worker
1 million villages remain without a single Kingdom outpost, better known as a church.
Jesus told us that "all nations" will hear and be given an opportunity to respond to the Gospel of His Kingdom. The word "all nations" is translated from the Greek 'panta ta ethne' which means that every nation, tribe and tongue will receive the Good News. God also gave us the "end" of the story to give us assurance that the task will be completed (Revelation 7:9).
Understanding the measurables of the unfinished task of the Great Commission should help us to know what to do toward the "end" Jesus speaks of. Understanding the times also means we have to understand the issues that confront us, the Church, today. Let me suggest there are two major issues that need our, Church leaders, immediate attention.
First, the majority of Christian leaders today lack understanding of all that it means to follow Jesus as he laid it out for us. Fairly audacious thing to say, right? But think with me here, if this were not true, would there not be more than 1% of his followers actually following his plan to make disciples of "all nations?" Did Jesus really mean for his followers not to follow what he laid out for us to do, to just gather in barns instead of working in the harvest field?
Second, we take his salvation as a personal gift for us, based on a decision we make. Too many of God's people lack understanding that Jesus left us here for a reason so much bigger and grander than ourselves, our personal ambitions and goals. Following Jesus is not our life plus Jesus. It's Jesus is my life so lead me Lord and I will follow you to "all nations."
Christopher Wright, one of the world's most respected Old Testament Scholars, put it bluntly: "To confess Jesus as messiah is to commit yourself to His mission to the nations. You can't have one without the other - not if you believe the scriptures and read them as Jesus taught His disciples to."
To paraphrase Wright, you can't actually say "I follow Jesus" without embracing the nations and committing your life to God's global cause. That's not works based theology but Biblical missiology. Pastor John Piper put it this way, "To belong to Jesus is to embrace the nations with him."
Needed today are Issachar leaders who understand God's plan for "all nations" and know what to do to mobilize, prepare and release workers for the coming harvest. It's time to understand the times and know what to do!
Are you ready to be an Issachar Leader?
Reaching "all nations" does not mean we necessarily have to leave home when God has brought the mission field to us. My first book "Ethnic Embrace USA - Blessing the Nations Among Us" was written for this purpose.
My new book, "God I.N.C. - Finding Your Place in the Family Business" was written for that purpose. It will be available as a FREE ebook in early September. More information coming soon.
Learn more about the unfinished task at the Issachar Summit coming to Dallas on October 7th. Click here for more information.