Discipleship

Satan is Pleased

Disunity is nothing new. It is an old trick, arguably around since the garden scheme to put husband and wife against each other in blame and the resulting separation from God.

But this year’s pandemic-drenched election is confounding with the layers of disunity.

The progressive left is agitated that the party they have tried to transform has as its candidate who some view as a centrist. Republicans are left wondering what it means to be conservative anymore as some shill for the cult of personality while others lament the loss of small government and kindness. Pro-life people are disunified on what the term means, do we only vote for a candidate perceived to be against abortion or do we actually work to value life of all people.

Sadly, the church, a people prone to be discipled more by confirmation bias than the Bible, has allowed the same level of disunity over politics or even response to a global pandemic. All of this leaves the accuser of the Saints, Satan, pleased.

Now I have no insight for the political left, or right, but I do have some encouragement for those claiming faith in Christ. Unity is what we are meant for. If it wasn’t important Jesus could have saved his breath in John 17. A oneness in Christ, with each other is the design for the church.

We are all culpable so where do we go from here? I suggest we become more rooted in the Word, more aggressive in repentance, and more familiar with love.

We must know what Jesus taught in order to be his disciples and we hear it in Scripture. Of course every believer is committed to Scripture, just ask them. But as individuals I wonder if we are ripe for evaluation of our lives and how much we take in that is in opposition to God’s best for his people and his invitation to live as Kingdom citizens.

Can we endeavor to consume more of Christ’s word? And do so not to confirm a bias we have but asking the Spirit to open our eyes and show us how to get to unity with others anchored in the good news of Jesus?

As we read then we should be quick to act upon what we hear. We tend to read Scripture looking for stories of great blessing that we can claim for ourselves but neglect the calls against rampant idolatry and half-hearted worship. Maybe in this season, to get to unity it will take aggressive repentance for the ways we have sinned against each other and the Lord by calling lesser things more important.

A whole-life repentance (given it’s Reformation Day we should reclaim this!) will move us beyond our prayer closet and into each others’ homes asking for forgiveness and seeking restoration with one another. It will also move us into the streets to care for the least among us, those without voice, without privilege.

And it might recenter us in love. Jesus does bold work by calling his followers to not only love our neighbor (hard enough for us) but to also love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us. Some of us find it hard in this season to love the people we sit six-feet away from at church. But following Jesus is death-to-self. A sacrificial life of care for others, even those we are sure are against us. Let’s recommit to that, to love.

Because Jesus first loved us we have nothing to lose in extending love to others. Maybe the Spirit will even give you a tangible way to do that before the election is even over.

In the Word, quick to repent, and active in unlimited love, we will find our unity. In Jesus, who forgives us and gives us new mercy to try again. We are free to throw off what weighs us and separates us and realize the answer to Christ’s prayer that we would be one and he and the Father are one.

Are we up for it?

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.