Jesus. People. Place.

As I continue on this journey of life and ministry I was reminded this week that our posture in building a church, discipling those around us, and sending people out to do the same must be founded in and focused on three things. Jesus. People. And Place.

Jesus

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:2–5 (ESV)

Gospel-centered, Christ-centered, Jesus people, pick your description, Christians are meant to be “all about Jesus.” Paul says it here reminding believers in Corinth that that is all he offered, Christ and him crucified. A finished work of the cross. A Savior who died for us. Then the rest of the New Testament keep rolling with the same point.

As we preach him, as we center our life around him, he works, the Spirit empowers us and faith is birthed in us and those in our hearing.

The implications are broad but they are all a narrowing to that which is most important in the life of a believer and the church, Jesus.

People

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18–20 (ESV)

While the introverts among us might prefer the Christian life just be “me and Jesus” he actually makes us part of a family or other people that trust in him. And the purpose of that family is to serve as ambassadors for Jesus, God making his appeal through us. Imploring reconciliation to God.

While it is easy in the Evangelical world to recognize the need “over there,” awash in statistics of unreached people groups, most likely God has surrounded you with people he loves and desires to call his own. So as you cling to Jesus, you notice the people around you and you love them as you have been loved.

May the Lord increasingly give us a vision for how much he loves the people we come into contact each day that we would implore them to reconciliation.

Place

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,” Acts 17:26–27 (ESV)

Finally, God in his sovereignty has put you in a place. While that place may change over time, while you are there you are meant to recognize your placement, proclaiming Jesus to the people there, and endeavoring for the good of that city (or town or borough, etc)

In the exile, God would tell his people to labor toward the prosperity, or flourishing of the city they were in. As those living in boundaries determined by God claiming it as our own, becoming a champion of “local” for the good of the people around us that they might meet Jesus.


For me, this works out as a steadfast determination to know nothing but Jesus as I preach, have conversation and disciple those in our church, Reservoir. It also means I want to clearly see they image-bearers around me and reveal my own need for Jesus that they would recognize theirs. All while loving the place I live, where I am called (Escondido is my hood).

It also means that members we encourage, leaders we train and residents we prepare to send out all have to be conditioned likewise, to be about Jesus, People, and Place.

Are you down?

When I Run Low on Grace

Stacy and I settled in for a relaxing evening and turned on the newest restaurant makeover show. The star chef was determined to revitalize a slumping eatery in just 24 hours. (As a side-bar, I am thinking of doing the same kind of show for churches – 24 hour replants… who is in?!)

As the background rolled you immediately witnessed the dysfunction of the staff and vision of the restaurant and while there were many culpable parties I personally focused on the kitchen manager. I didn’t like the way he belittled and gossiped about the owner and he was clearly responsible for the failure of food quality and safety. Having pegged him as the problem I said out loud a couple of times, “He needs to go… fire that guy!”

Then the renovation and new birth began in earnest and there is a scene where the celebrity chef brings the negligent kitchen manager to a test kitchen to train him in the new menu. As he learns the skills needed to make these new delicious entrees, he tells his story of an absent father and a lack of passion for life and work. The f-bomb-dropping chef hears the pain, makes sure the manager knows he hears him and relates to him in shared story and dreams. He won’t give up on this guy and he hopes the manager won’t give up on him. He extends real grace in the face of failure and plants the seeds of transformation.

Watching it unfold I exclaimed that I couldn’t believe Gordon Ramsey was more gracious than me to which Stacy responded, “way to go pastor!”

Boom.

Oh man, there are some many more examples I could use to make clear my often lack of grace toward others. Here I am the “grace junky” incapable of extending the grace I say I need so much. It is convicting. But it is not the end.

You see, when I run low on grace Jesus sends wave upon wave of more grace. When I don’t mirror the gift I am given in Jesus he gives in fresh, abundant ways. When I fail Christ holds me and tells me that his grace is sufficient, so much so that now I can learn and attempt to give grace to others. And this is true for you too.

Today, know that the grace of Christ is unending toward you. With it, Jesus calls you to real life, a gracious life. May we learn to extend this same grace that we would look and smell like Jesus!

Glimpses of Rest

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” — Matthew 11:28-30 (CSB)

This week I had a change in schedule that took the biggest item of work off the task list. The thing that each week looms as the necessity to be accomplished and product to produce. It is my routine deadline and as the week progresses, if the task is not done I increasingly wrestle with anxiety and stress toward the goal of accomplishing it.

This week, however, someone else has taken on the weight of what usually drives my schedule and because of it I can’t help but think of rest.

I have had more freedom, without the deadline and the pressure, to look into other things and catch up on items that usually don’t get much attention. And if nothing was accomplished there was no burden, no weight to lift because the major task had been taken care of.

This has been for me a small glimpse into the rest we have in Christ. Here we have his key invitation, and it still stands for everyone everywhere. Weary and burdened, in need of rest, come. The work has been done, sin has been atoned for and there are no more spiritual or cosmic deadlines to pressure you. Relief. Security. Salvation.

Oh what joy we are given, what a gift it is to rest in Jesus. To know that his way is easy. Because of his humility we can find rest for our souls. More of this, please!

What are the things that are your glimpses of rest? The embrace of a comfortable bed? The licks of a pup? The refreshing cold water when you are parched? Laughter with friends around a fire? Enjoy it. And let it remind you of the rest you have in Christ. Let it give you a taste for what is still to come in him. Rest.

When the Heat Turns Up

It is October in San Diego, so of course, that means we should expect triple-digit temperatures. While the rest of the country is dusting off the flannel and sipping Pumpkin Spiced Lattes by the fire, we live through the scorching Santa Ana winds and whatever mess they blow in.

When the heat turns up it is vital that you stay in the shade! Sound logical right, flee the oppression of the sun by blocking it with something that protects you. So that is what we do. Either huddled inside our air-conditioned homes or hidden in a shady corner of paradise we take it easy in the shade.

This is not at all unlike the life of the Christian and I want to take this opportunity to encourage you to stay in the “shade” of Christ’s finished work. It really is the only place of refreshment and safety. It is also the only place of growth and experiencing the life you were meant to live!

It can be hard for some of us. When the “heat” of life seems cranked a bit high, we imagine we have to conquer in our own strength and labor under the scorching rays. Instead of getting ahead we just end up sweaty and dehydrated spiritually. We tune into voices that suggest better ways to be cool but each one pushes further into the inferno.

Then like a cool drink of water comes the truth that we are saved from the wrath of God for our sin not by our own ability to get things right but by Christ’s perfect life, innocent life, and beautiful death-crushing resurrection. What’s more, this is the same way we are sanctified (transformed to be more like Jesus), by the truth of his gospel relentlessly applied to our lives, every nook and cranny. Saved by the shade of Christ’s work for us and changed by it too. No more labor in the sun… just fun in the cool of the day, every day.

When life gets hot, turn yet again to the cross. When things seem too much, cling to Jesus. When you can’t take the heat, retreat to Christ’s arms of safety and security. His work saves you, his work is bringing you all the way home.