Discipleship

Pomegranates and the Christian

It is pomegranate season, or at least the tail end of it. When the trees are full and the fruit falls easily and the red, juicy flesh is ripe for the enjoying.

Our back yard has one such tree and it has been a delight for these six years (and no small amount of work for our harvester Stacy!) This year the kids were creative and decided to sell the pomegranates to raise money for Buddy Break, a respite program for families with kids with special needs.

As the harvest has come though, I can’t help but see the Christian in the pomegranate. And as I study the Sermon on the Mount I see it all the more.

You see, pomegranates grow from a bright pinkish red flower in the spring to the hardened dusty colored ball in September. You know the pomegranates are ready when you see them begin to break open under the force of the fruit inside. The bright purple proves them.

Now, bear with the illustration, the believer is formed and grows under the stress of life. The seasons of heat, and little water. Avoiding, if we can, the ‘birds’ or ‘rats’ that might try to pluck and harm us. As we persevere, something is happening inside. There is fruit welling up, getting strong and ready to be seen.

Then we are broken open and what is inside is bare for all to see. We don’t prefer the brokenness, but it is the way. And if we have found our source in Christ and his life, then the fruit is sweet and draws others to glorify our Father who is in heaven.

I am praying that this is a fruitful season for you as you trust in Jesus, and let the light of Christ shine in you.

Discipleship

Reservoir Leadership Track

2020 was destined to be a year of growth and deeper roots for our little suburban church. Our leadership had claimed the theme of “Building Together” as we felt that coming through years of transition and replanting we were poised to spring ahead in many ways. Individual ownership of the church was increasing, meaning people were stepping up to do the work of ministry, and our identity had seemingly formed around the preaching of the gospel and living in response to the grace of Christ.

Then the pandemic began seven months of disruption in every category of life, environmental, political, spiritual, and others. So the momentum met its end. The growth became a tension of keeping who was committed. Building together transitioned to a desire to just be together.

While we still face the pandemic realities among the good decisions we made was to launch our leadership track anyway. It was designed to be a vital six-month cohort for learning and formation around the vision of the church as the elders set a priority to equip and release more leaders at Reservoir. The first round was to be undertaken by the elders so there were already formed relationships making it easy to execute.

For sixth months (so far) we have read, written about, and discussed material in four key books. One to establish the need to pursue the inner health of our souls (David Benner’s The Gift of Being Yourself). One to present a vision for how the body of believers could live Kingdom lives together (John Tyson’s A Creative Minority). Another to give us a framework for the life of the church, especially as one desiring to be multiplied (Alan Frow’s Broken for Blessing.) And a fourth to stir the hunger in us for renewal among us and the people of our church (Mark Sayer’s Reappearing Church). Every week we have a video meeting to discuss what we are learning and where we are heading. We have laughed, struggled through concepts, and prayed fervently for one another and the church.

We have missed out on some of the planned family meals meant to go along with the Leadership Track but I have found our time to be greatly encouraging and aligning for the elders. I don’t think I have known a time when we were as united as we are now and we have a rooted honestly that has strengthened our relationships.

Scott, Bill, and John have sharpened me and I think they would agree our time in these books and conversation with one another has been fruitful. It has truly been one of the bright things in the church sustaining a tired pastor!

We are looking forward to rolling out the Leadership Track to others in the church, when we get a bit further along in this disruptive season. As we do I am sure others will find the time just as valuable and worthwhile. It turns out we really are building together and what is forming is exciting.

Book Review

Practicing Life

Much of what we have been studying and encouraging among each other in our little church and even in my own family’s life is the experience of living transformed lives. Using this season to rightly shape how we live in light of the grace of Christ, loving God and neighbor well.

Oh the crush of things that demand you put yourself first and that attempt to hide rather than expose self-righteousness. If ever we could monopolize on wrecked schedules to start something new, this is it.

Into this fray comes a helpful book, The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction by Justin Whitmel Earley. It is primer on suggested habits for the day and for the week that we can take on to clear our head and live uncluttered devotion to Christ.

I found myself served by Whitmel Earley and his suggestions especially around use of technology and always being accessible. Boundaries benefit us and we could all use a regular Sabbath! All throughout the book there is a steady flow of gospel reminder that can anchor any of us as we live in 2020.

I really appreciated that the author is not a pastor with flexible time built into his schedule but a corporate attorney with a demanding workload.

Below are some key quotes from the book and I encourage you to take up and read, set some rule into your life, from the grace of Jesus for his glory!

“We are all living according to a specific regimen of habits, and those habits shape most of our life.”

“In trying to free ourselves from our limitations, we brought the ultimate limitation of death into the world. But Christ turns this human paradigm on its head. The way down is the way up. The way to victory is through surrender. The way to freedom is through submission.”

“We, for our own sake, tried to become limitless, and the world was ruined. Jesus, for our sake, became limited and the world was saved.”

“Only when your habits are constructed to match your worldview do you become someone who doesn’t just know about God and neighbor but someone who actually loves God and neighbor.”

“We desperately need a set of counter-formative practices to become the lovers of God and neighbor we were created to be.”

“Let me tell you what is overwhelming: a default, normal, unexamined American life. That is completely overwhelming. It’s so much to take on, and we all do it simply by not doing anything else instead.”

“The Common Rule is a different way to live. It’s meant to distill your habits, so you do more meaningful things by doing fewer things.”

“The Common Rule is made up of eight habits, four daily and four weekly. The daily habits are ■ kneeling prayer at morning, midday, and bedtime, ■ one meal with others, ■ one hour with phone off, and ■ Scripture before phone. The weekly habits are ■ one hour of conversation with a friend, ■ curate media to four hours, ■ fast from something for twenty-four hours, and ■ sabbath.”