Appreciative inquiry – replicate what’s right

“There is a theory in organizational development called appreciative inquiry . . . Instead of  exclusively focusing on what is wrong and trying to fix it, you identify what’s right and try to replicate it.  Appreciative inquiry is playing to people’s strengths.”-  Mark Batterson

“And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”- Genesis 1:2 (ESV)

As Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 2 of Whisper, he states that although God convicts us of our sin, He also pulls our potential out of us.  In other words, God speaks to our strengths.  Thankfully, Pastor Batterson adds, God’s big enough to speak to each of us in a language we understand.  In fact, one translation of Psalm 29:4 describes the voice of the Lord as “fitted to the strength.”

Most noteworthy, Mark reminds each of us of this simple truth: “You are the answer to someone else’s prayer.”  Yet, we often react as if our gospel is too small.  Perhaps, the author observes, that also applies to our understanding of God’s voice.

Thus, Pastor Batterson shares one fundamental conviction: God is big enough.  He’s big enough to speak through doors, dreams, and people. And, He’s also close enough to speak through desires, promptings, and pain.

Furthermore, the Hebrew word paniym describes God’s proximity.  Regarding time, paniym refers to the split second before and the split second after.  Similarly, in regard to space, paniym refers to the place right in front and right in back.  Writing in The Attributes of God, A. W. Tozer pictures paniym this way:

“God is above, but He’s not pushed up.  He’s beneath, but He’s not pressed down.  He’s outside, but He’s not excluded. . . . inside, but He’s not confined.  God is above all things presiding, beneath all things sustaining, outside of all things embracing and inside of all things filling.”

In conclusion, Pastor Batterson states, some Hebrew scholars believe the name of God, Yahweh, equates to the sound of a breath.  On one hand, Yahweh is too sacred to pronounce.  On the other hand, Yahweh’s whispered with each and every breath we take.

And when the Holy Spirit shows up, God’s not speaking any louder than before.  It’s just that you’re listening a little closer.  A little better.

Today’s question: What does appreciative inquiry reveal about your strengths?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Still predictably unpredictable”

God doesn’t need any more messiahs

“My availability to God’s call to sacrifice — Abraham’s availability to God’s call to sacrifice, your availability to God’s call to sacrifice — is predicated on the understanding that God doesn’t need any more messiahs.  He sent one.  The job is finished.  We are not needed.  I am not needed.  Ah, but I’m wanted (emphasis author’s).”- Jared C. Wilson

Jared Wilson concludes Chapter 8 of The Imperfect Disciple as he states that times of trouble bring out the real you.  In fact, Charles Spurgeon once said, “Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil, and let us see what we are made of.”

St. Paul used the image of clay jars (2 Corinthians 4:7).  Because we’re fragile, Jared asserts, our brokenness,  our “jars of clay”, reveals what we carry inside.   Hence, what we worship shows through.  However, Pastor Wilson exhorts, there’s good news.  Jared writes:

“The real you, the you inside that you hide, the you that you try to protect, the you that you hope nobody sees or knows – that’s the you that God loves.  No, he doesn’t love your sin, of course.  But he loves your true self.  Without pretense, without façade, without image management, without religious makeup.”

In conclusion, when the words of our accusers drown out the gospel, Jared encourages us to stare at the glory of God until we see it.  And when Satan comes with his wounding, haunting words, we stand behind our advocate – Christ the Lord.

The Bible’s full to brimming with good new for us.  And the Holy Spirit hammers the words into your heart.  Although words of fear and shame cut deep, Christ’s blood speaks a better word (Hebrews 12:24).

Today’s question: How do you respond to Jared’s statement that God doesn’t need any more messiahs?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Our dependence on God – all grace or no grace”

The gospel – good news for the stuck

“Look the gospel has to be good news for the stuck too.  Or else it’s not good news.”- Jared C. Wilson

In Chapter 7 (“The Nine Irrefutable Laws of Followship”) of The Imperfect Disciple, Jared Wilson opens with an observation about his church ministry.  Pastor Wilson states he rapidly realized one thing about his parishioners.  It took some of them all the faith they could muster that week just to get through the church doors.  They came on Sunday mornings because they knew they needed Christ’s strength.

As a result, Jared asks, “If any of us have what it takes, why are we going to church in the first place?”  Thus, no matter how stuck we feel, we need the confidence that Jesus won’t leave us behind, flailing in the quicksand.

Therefore, the latest and greatest self-help books offer no solution, even though we crave their advice.  Often they occupy space on church bookshelves.  In other words, neither a positive or negative approach to the Law works.  “Dos” and “don’ts” both create a burden.  Jared explains:

“”Dos and don’ts accomplish nothing resembling biblical Christianity when they are detached from the done (emphasis Jared’s) of the gospel.  The gospel gives us oxygen and space to breathe.”

In conclusion, Pastor Wilson underscores, God certainly cares about our “obedience unto holiness.”  Most importantly, God wants us to see that behavioral obedience must flow from a heart full of grace. Otherwise, it’s worthless and pointless.  Thus, the gospel provides power for obedience.  And grace teaches us how to repent and obey.  Also, St. Paul describes the gospel as distinct from, but not antithetical to, the law.  However, Jared cautions, “any time you add a ‘but’ to grace, you disgrace grace.”

The primary problem with many approaches to Christian discipleship, Jared contends, rests in their foundation of doing something different rather than becoming different.  Hence, in the next few blogs, Jared offers his Nine Irrefutable Laws of Followship.  Pastor Wilson bases these “Laws” on the “fruit” of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.  For walking in the Spirit defines the kind of living that honors God best.  Tomorrow Jared covers the first three.

Today’s question: How do you understand the gospel as good news for the stuck?   Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Love others sacrificially and boldly”

A community of Christ-followers

“When we as a community of Christ-followers demonstrate our life in Christ together through our feeling of Scripture, our prayer, our fasting, our service, and our relational intimacy, we create a compelling announcement of the kingdom’s presence in the world.”- Jared C. Wilson

Jared Wilson concludes Chapter 6 of The Imperfect Disciple as he notes idolatry never is far from any of us.  In the life of the church, this takes the form of wish dreams.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer first described wish dreams in Life Together.  Pastor Bonhoeffer wrote:

“When a person become alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God.”

Furthermore, Pastor Wilson observes, the wish dreams of church folks center around their church experience or community.  In addition, they may want wish dream pastors.  However, Jared states, “wish dreams . . . quench the Spirit’s working in the real stuff of church and ministry.”

As Pastor Wilson notes, too many church folks expect their pastors or churches to complete them.  In other words, to virtually “be Jesus” to them.  Most importantly, only Jesus can be Jesus to us.  He’s the only Messiah.

Therefore, Jared states, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount contains a brilliant, God-designed blueprint for kingdom life.  Jesus’ Sermon envisions a community called, formed, and led by God into worship and outward mission.

In conclusion, this means we must diligently preach a gospel we embody and embody the gospel we preach.  Thus, we need to embrace both gospel-driven proclamation (light) and gospel-driven servanthood (salt).  Nothing stops a loving force of that magnitude!

Today’s question: How does your current church witness as a community of Christ-followers?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The gospel – good news for the stuck”

Bringers of the gospel – not just a good idea, but good news

“We meet each other as bringers of the gospel.  The gospel is designed to be said — it’s not just a good idea; it’s good news.”- Jared C. Wilson

In Chapter 6 (“The Revolution Will Not Be Instagrammed”) of The Imperfect Disciple, Jared Wilson cites Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Pastor Bonhoeffer once wrote that we meet one another as bringers of the gospel.  For this to happen, we must find our church community a safe place to be a sinner.  Hence, judgment of the honest brings bitterness.  However, grace for the honest brings sweetness.  In other words, Jared states, the church is a place where it’s okay not to be okay.

We share our personal faith  in community. In addition, think of the gospel as a family meal.  Jesus desires regular and intentional enjoyment of the gospel in the presence of and for the benefit of others.  Therefore, the church must constantly proclaim the benefits and blessings of community.  In the process, the church turns the world upside down.   Denial and crucifixion of self mark the entry point to God’s kingdom.  As Pastor Wilson explains, this must mean:

” . . . embodying the biblically prescribed counterculture of the kingdom, challenging everyone who lives in the world not to live as those who are of it.”

In the New Testament, the author observes, no concept exists of the church as a collection of individuals with their own ambitions and preferences.  Because the Holy Spirit drives the whole enterprise from the outside.  Community unity mechanizes it on the inside.

As a result, today’s church, Jared stresses, should do no less than the church described in Acts 4.  That church:

  • listened to and felt Scripture together
  • prayed, fasted, and served others together

In conclusion, Pastor Wilson states it’s impossible to sustain any kingdom rhythm by oneself.  Therefore, it’s easier to embrace and sustain kingdom rhythms alongside other Christians.

Today’s question: Where do you meet others as bringers of the gospel?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Confession – developing relational intimacy through shared prayer”

The dark cave of shame – hold the gospel up to every narrow beam of light

“Too many times we are in the dark cave of shame, crowded out by the stalagmites formed from a thousand years of sin, and we’re holding the gospel up to every narrow beam of light.”- Jared C. Wilson

In Chapter 2 (“Good News for Losers”) of The Imperfect Disciple, Jared Wilson talks about the advantage of being at the bottom.  Yes, the author acknowledges, at times it’s hard to read the pages of the gospel in our dark cave.  We simply use it to wipe our brow or dry our tears.

On the other hand, Jared notes, we frustrate ourselves with the redundancy of our sins.  As the author adds: “We like our ruts, and our ruts like us.”

In addition, it’s not just our sins that never seem to go away.  That goes for our wounds also.  However, Jared cautions us not to equate sins and wounds.  He explains the results of this confusion:

“This needlessly frustrates people’s following of Jesus.  We further traumatize victims when we tell them their wounds are sins, and we demotivate repenters when we tell them their sins are wounds.”

In other words, we need to sort out our responsibilities from our vulnerabilities.  To vanquish our sin, we must expose it.

Next, Mr. Wilson takes a look at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Specifically, Jared focuses on the Beatitudes.  He contends that many, many people – including lots of church people – think Jesus came to earth to loosen things up.  Jared explains:

” . . . like everything was so boring and traditional and legalistic or whatever, and then God sent Jesus Christ to ‘Keep Jerusalem Weird’ or something, like he’s formed some hippie commune for people with ‘Coexist’ bumper stickers on their cars.”

Yet, it’s a mistake to assume that Jesus shook things up to disrupt other people.  He came to disrupt you and me.

Today’s question: What Bible verses shed light into your dark cave of shame?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, “Facing things out of my control”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Turning things upside down- or right side up?”

Overcome life’s negative circumstances

“Whenever you overcome life’s negative circumstances, God will give you an authority to raise up others and deliver them from their life’s circumstances.”- Os Hillman

“My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”- John 17:20-21

In Chapter 13 (“Stage 6: Networks”) of The Joseph Calling, Os Hillman discusses how God works through unified networks.  God works through those networks to build His kingdom.  Specifically, in Scripture we see the need for groups of people to unite.  They unite for a cause greater than any one person could accomplish alone.

Most importantly, a group of committed believers in the marketplace makes a difference locally, if not nationally.  Writing in To Change the World, author James Davidson Hunter tells us:

“The key actor in history is not individual genius, but rather the network and new institutions that are created out of these networks.  And the more ‘dense’ the network — that is, the more active and interactive the network — the more influential it could be.”

In addition, God calls each of us to transform our negative life circumstances.  We turn them into materials God uses to build His kingdom on earth.  Thus, Os sees this as a form of payback to Satan.  Hence, Satan reaps the pain he sows in your life.  We must remember this when we come face-to-face with circumstances that seem to contradict God’s nature.  Therefore, Mr. Hillman adds:

“We all have a mission to bring the kingdom of God on earth; we all have unique assignments from the Lord, and we are called to walk together in fulfilling the Great Commission to bring the gospel to others and manifest heaven on earth.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you overcome life’s negative circumstances?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Great blessing out of difficulty”

True forgiveness of those who wrong us

“True forgiveness of those who wrong us demonstrates more than anything else whether or not you are serious about walking with God on a deeper level.”- Os Hillman

As Os Hillman continues Chapter 11 of The Joseph Calling, he underscores that times exist when people must do things out of pure obedience.  In other words, pure obedience operates independently of good feelings.

Thus, Os reveals the bottom line for people who hold on to bitterness and refuse to forgive.  Such people make themselves out to be victims.  Hence, as victims, they fail to see the wickedness of their own sin before the cross.  Writing in My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers describes the sin of self-pity:

“No sin is worse than the sin of self-pity, because it obliterates God and puts self-interest upon the throne.  It opens our mouths to spit our murmurings and our lives become craving spiritual sponges.”

Most importantly, Os exhorts, God’s able to heal the sting of betrayal.  Our job involves taking the first step toward forgiveness.  That first step happens as we accept and admit our own need for mercy.

Furthermore, offering undeserved love incredibly impacts the one who betrayed you.  In fact, the author defines the true gospel as “faithfulness expressed in the face of unfaithfulness.”  Therefore, Os states, people must develop their theology based on what the Bible teaches, rather than the level of pain-avoidance and lifestyle they desire.

In conclusion, the author looks at what happens when we’re forced into a battle we didn’t choose:

“When we are forced into a battle we did not choose, it is the place of initiation to live for a cause greater than ourselves.  It is in this battle where we learn the reality of our faith and whether the God we intellectually believe in can be trusted with the outcome of our lives.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you show true forgiveness to those involved in the loss of your calling?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Let your faith change your circumstances”

When life seems overwhelming

“Isn’t this our first reaction when life seems overwhelming — we start lightening the load, dumping cargo overboard so we don’t drown?  The problem is, we can dump the wrong things overboard.  We think nothing of tossing over joy while hanging on to the very things that overwhelm us.”- John Eldredge

John Eldredge concludes the Spring section of Walking with God as he discusses seeking guidance from God.  When clarity from God isn’t immediately forthcoming, John states, our first step involves paying attention to our own posture toward God.  In other words, our posture affects our ability to hear God or colors what we do hear.

Especially when giving up some joy seems inevitable, it’s essential that we stop to ask God.  For God often desires that we run against life’s prevailing current.  Thus, this guidance often feels counterintuitive.

Most importantly, John advises, notice your reaction as you start to close in on what you believe God’s saying to you.  If your reaction produces joy, the author states, you’re onto something.  But if that reaction produces sorrow, fear, or discouragement, you need to stop and ask why.

In conclusion, John stresses that he’s not advocating a senseless or hopeless approach to life.  In fact, Oswald Chambers once said that the existence of God provides the only explanation for a Christian’s life.  Otherwise, life makes no sense.

Therefore, wisdom and revelation go hand in hand- and come from the Holy Spirit.  John adds: “We need them both to walk with God, need them in generous doses to navigate the dangerous waters of this world.”

And when healing or a breakthrough seems illusive, as Christ followers we possess a gospel of resurrection.  Despite what losses come our way, they don’t signal the end of the story.  Jesus came so that we might have life.

Today’s question: What Bible verses sustain you when life seems overwhelming?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “The three laws of relationship”

Please note: the annotation of Walking with God will post Thursday, June 8th

Complaining – the rival of grace

“Whining is the opposite of worship, and complaining is the rival of grace.”- Kyle Idleman

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”- 1 Thessalonians 5:18

In Chapter 8 (“More Peaceful Than Your Disappointments”) of Grace Is Greater, Kyle Idleman asserts that 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reflects more than a helpful suggestion or a hint for healthy living.  It’s a command.  Thus, lack of gratitude isn’t a wink-wink sin.  God considers it a big deal.

Therefore, Kyle stresses that God takes grumbling and complaining very seriously.  Why?  Because He takes it personally (emphasis Kyle’s).  In addition, God takes complaining personally because it:

  • overlooks the greatness of the grace we’ve received from God
  • undermines the Good News of the Gospel
  • ignores the generosity and faithfulness of God

As Pastor Idleman summarizes, complaining boils down to a refusal to trust God and acknowledge His grace in your life.  The author adds:

“Complaining has a way of pulling the shade down on the window of grace.  It keeps the light of God’s grace from shining in.”

Furthermore, Kyle states, research shows that the more we complain, the more we find things to complain about.  Also, when we complain our focus centers on what we wish was different, not on thankfulness for God’s blessings.  Unlike complaint, gratitude doesn’t depend on circumstances.  Gratitude recognizes that God’s grace gives us reason enough to be thankful in all circumstances.

In conclusion, Pastor Idleman notes that ultimately, we possess few reasons to complain about our situation.  We worship a God of resurrection.  Therefore, Kyle urges you to reverse engineer grace in your life.  In other words, find reasons to be grateful for God’s grace in situations you wish were different or in things you’ve complained about along the way.

Today’s question: How has complaint served as the rival of grace in your life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “We need to first be limited”