The Staying Nature of God

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Second-class citizen

Perhaps like me, you have never felt a call to international ministry. Living in a family like ours, that emphasizes the ends of the earth like we do, can be tough. I have never lived internationally (does the summer I spent in the San Fransisco Bay area count?), so it is easy to feel like a second-class denominational-citizen.

With us always (& everywhere)

The going-to-the-nations part of the Great Commission is obvious, and typically the part emphasized. But at the end of the Great Commission, Jesus promises his presence wherever we may find ourselves. “I am with you always” (Matthew 18:20) It isn’t necessary to fly off to some far-flung corner of the world to find Jesus at work. 

Staying nature of God

Jesus is present, and at work, right where you are. The place you already live is the most obvious, and maybe overlooked, place to start ministry. Scholars and teachers have convinced Christians of the sending nature of God (the missio Dei). Perhaps more emphasis is needed on the staying nature of God (the incarnation). 

Staying in one place

There are amazing examples of fruitful ministries which have resulted from people staying in one place. Several I know personally are the late Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement. He didn’t start there until he was 40, but labored for over 50 years at the same church. Wayne Gordon moved to the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago over 40 years ago. He is still there. My pastor, David Riemenschneider, came to Bloomingdale in 1978. I believe he has the longest tenure of anyone in our network of churches.

Simply sticking it out

Perhaps you are praying that God would bear more fruit where you are. His answer to that prayer could be through simply sticking it out. What if all God needs to produce a harvest is get you to stay put?

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What Questions Do That Answers Don’t

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“If there is a God who knows everything,” Collette Gary asked, “why does he ask questions?” Since God knows everything, they certainly are not for his own knowledge. What is it God knows questions do, that answers often don’t? 

In the Bible God asks a lot of questions. There are over 3,000 questions in the Bible and the majority of them are asked by God.

  • The first four things God said to Adam and Eve, after they disobeyed, were all questions. (Genesis 3:9-13)
  • The longest list of questions in the Bible was God’s response to the suffering of Job. (Job 38-39)
  • Jonah is the only book in the Bible that ends with a question. (Jonah 4:11) Any guesses who asked it?

So what is it that God knows questions do, that stating facts, or just explaining steps a person must take, doesn’t?

Questions make us think. They engage the mind. God wants to create engagement with what matters most. Questions invite us to get involved.

The better we get at engaging ourselves and others with profound questions and awakening the imagination to get involved, the more similar we are to approaching situations like God.

What is a situation where you can insert a question instead of an answer?

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The Purpose of Pain

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Do you want to see more alignment and serenity in your life? Then you have to stop avoiding this.

Do you want to see more alignment and serenity in your life? Then you have to stop avoiding this.

I know some of you have had to deal with significant pain in your life. You may be going through a painful time right now. How do you view pain? Is it something to avoid at all costs? Is it something you deserve, that “balances the scales”? How does Scripture teach us to view pain?

I fall more into the camp of avoiding pain at all costs. But more and more I am realizing just how high the cost is for avoiding pain and not seeing the role it has. One passage in particular has been helpful.

In Hebrews 12:11 the writer explains, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” Duh! Thanks, Captain Obvious! But the writer continues, “Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Pain can train.

There is a teaching or instructing role with pain. The word discipline is used ten times, depending on the translation, in Hebrews 12. The word behind discipline is the word pedagogy is derived.

The writer knows the hard things the believers are facing. It is important it doesn’t impact their understanding of God’s character. In verse 10 we read, “God disciplines us for our good that we might share in his holiness.” This tells us 2 things: God does discipline, but he does not discipline to punish us, but to complete us. Sharing in God’s holiness, means sharing in his completeness, his wholeness.

You are familiar with the phrase, “No pain, no gain.” This passage seems to be saying, “Know pain, know gain.” If we will be trained by pain, we will see a harvest of righteousness and peace in our life. There is a crop of rightness and serenity that can only come by way of pain.

Is it possible the incompleteness, in all it’s forms, and disruption is a result of trying to avoid pain? Perhaps some willingness to endure pain for a moment would result in a harvest of wholeness and rest that would far out way the pain.

Of course, the context of this conversation of pain is the pain that Jesus willingly endured. In verse 2 we read it was for the joy that was set before him the Jesus endured the cross. He saw the harvest of souls that would come from his pain.

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The Scary Truth about Discipleship

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You have been reading the Great Commission all wrong.

You have been reading the Great Commission all wrong.


If you stop to think about the way you live the Christian life (how you were discipled) practically, day-to-day, I would guess you have learned what you do by imitating other Christians. The positive and negative habits, both good and bad traits, have been developed by imitation.

Wired for imitation

We are wired for imitation. How we live the Christian life is more caught than taught.

Faster and more powerful

Imitation is more powerful than education. Duplication is more powerful than doctrine. We are shaped more by mimicking others than we are memorizing theology. We copy the way others live faster than following what they teach.

A way of life

Jesus’ final mandate in Matthew 28:19-20 (the Great Commission) was to make disciples of all the nations baptizing them (identifying with God’s character and authority) and teaching them to observe (not to learn) everything he commanded. A disciple is an apprentice, a follower, an imitator of a way of life.

Not about belief

There is nothing in this mandate about what to believe. The mandate is to make people imitate a way of life. Jesus didn’t say teach them to KNOW everything I commanded. He said OBSERVE—live it!

Living what we believe

Don’t hear me say that what we believe is not important. What I am saying is the more important point is living what we believe.

About imitating

Discipleship is about imitating a certain way of life. If every church imitated your church, what would the state of the church in your community be?

Not style but character

I know we value diversity and different styles and we wouldn’t want every church to be a copy of just one church, but I’m not talking about style, I’m talking about character.

If every church…

So if every church imitated the generosity of your church, how much resources would flow out of the church and touch the lives of the people in your community?


If every church imitated the outreach and evangelism of your church, how many people would be given the opportunity to accept or reject the message of who Jesus is and what he has done?

…your church

If every church imitated the service and assistance of your church, how much good would be done around your community? Would service organization be overrun with volunteers? Would schools be glutted with tutors? Would park districts and municipalities be laying off employees because there would be so many people cleaning up and working in the community?

What about you?

Those were broad generalizations about the church as a whole. Let me really meddle for a moment and ask you to apply the same question to yourself. What about you is worth imitating?

If every Christian…

If every Christian in your church imitated you, what would the church look like? You don’t have to think about your entire community, just think about what your church would be like if everyone was like you.

…imitated you

If everyone has the same level of faith you have, what atmosphere of confidence in who God is and certainty that he will do what he has promised to do, would there be in your church? If everyone treated their family like you do, how strong would the homes be of people from your church? If everyone prayed with the same consistency and intensity as you, what would the prayer life of your church be?

A life worth imitating

Your goal should be a life shaped by Jesus, worth imitating. Until you do, the Great Commission cannot be fulfilled. Making disciples is more than convincing them what to believe. Making disciples is about convincing people your life is worth imitating.

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When You Get Disoriented

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How do you reorient yourself when you get disoriented?

How do you reorient yourself when you get disoriented?

I thought I remembered

You have probably had a similar experience to what happened to me a couple of months ago. I was driving on a highway I had been on one hundreds times. The highway took several turns through a small town. It had been about five years since I had been through that area. I thought I remembered the turns.

That’s when I realized

Twenty minutes later, the highway came perpendicular to a lake. I had no memory of a lake on this highway. I grabbed my phone to open up the GPS. I didn’t have it on because I thought I knew this area so well. That is when I realized, at one of the turns in that small town, I started heading north, instead of continuing east, the direction I thought I had been going for the past twenty minutes.

When you get disoriented

What happens when you get disoriented in your surroundings? Getting confused about where you are can be dangerous. If you are in an unfamiliar city or country and don’t know where you are, what are the dangers?

  1. Waste time: you may waste time heading the wrong way, like me driving north when I thought I was going east.
  2. Wrong place: you may wind up in the wrong place.
  3. Wreck: you may wreck if you can’t see where you’re going.

Locate the North Star

Imagine being captain of a ship before satellites or any electronic navigation existed. Suppose you were on the sea even before the invention of any type of compass, going through a storm, bobbing like a cork. After the waves settle, you have no idea which direction your vessel is pointing. Your only hope is for a clear, cloudless night and to wait for the stars to appear, so you can locate the North Star.

The point of orientation

The entire northern sky rotates around one star that remains nearly fixed. It is the end of the Little Dipper’s handle. We call it the North Star, but is also known as Polaris. It was the point of orientation for mariners for millennia. It does not rise or set in the night sky, because the axis of the earth is pointed at it. The North Star is a fixed point of orientation.

Direction no matter the landscape

Wouldn’t it be helpful to have a North Star for life? On a micro level, there are times of disorientation as to what needs to be done next. On a macro level, disorientation occurs as to where we are headed in life. A North Star provides an orienting direction no matter the landscape.

What is your North Star?

What is your North Star? What are those fixed points in your life to help you reorient yourself? Beyond to-do lists or bucket lists, what gives you clear direction for where you are heading? When you are uncertain about what you are doing and where you are going, what can you look to with certainty? Chuck Smith use to say, “When things happen in life that you don’t understand, you must fall back on what you do understand.”


What axioms, truths, and principles do you turn to in times of uncertainty?

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Satisfaction, Success, and Significance

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Significance comes from making a difference that lasts.

Significance comes from making a difference that lasts.

I love the Model X Tesla. I know that is a poor use of the word love. Go ahead and judge me—I’ll take it. The Model X is an all-electric car with doors that open above the roof. They are called falcon wings—their take on the Mercedes 300 Gullwing. It’s a car that melts the soul.

It would be satisfying

It would be satisfying to own a Model X Tesla. In theory I could buy one. I would have to sacrifice a couple of my kids’ weddings and college educations. But in theory, it is an attainable goal.

Reaching that goal

How satisfying would reaching that goal be? Teslas have an 8 year unlimited mileage warranty. There are test models which have had over 500,000 miles put on them. Let’s say I maintained it well, kept the rust off, and had good fortune with the computer system. Maybe I could enjoy it for 20 years.

A point in time

There is a satisfaction that comes from the success of reaching a goal. My definition of success is a goal reached at a point in time. Being the owner of a Model X (reaching that goal) would create a measure of satisfaction; maybe for as long as 20 years.

Last over time

By contrast, there is a satisfaction that comes from significance. My definition of significance is making a difference that lasts over time. The longer the impact lasts, the more significant it is.

Limited satisfaction

I have reached many goals up to this point in my life. I am sure you have, too. I have bought houses, started programs, and built businesses. There are many successes I can look to as accomplishments. All were goals I set out to reach that happened in a point in time. But the satisfaction from those accomplishments has been limited.

Lasting significance

I want to give myself to more than successes though. I want to be able to say I have done something that had some staying power. There may be a few items that get passed on to my kids or grandkids that last beyond me. But there is something in me that wants to know what I am giving myself to has eternal significance.

A life of significance

What are those areas where a difference can be made that last over time? What impact can be made that lasts throughout time? What are the eternal investments that can be made? Jesus said, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10 NLT) I think Jesus wants you to experience the satisfaction that comes from successes. However, more than the limited satisfaction of success, he wants you to have the unlimited satisfaction of a life of significance.

An eternal mark

There is nothing more lasting than a soul. A Model X may melt the soul, but it doesn’t make an eternal mark on the soul. This idea is clarifying for me. Is there a more worthwhile place to attempt to make a difference than a soul that will live for eternity? Can anything compare to the significance found in impacting a soul that last beyond time?

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Stop Thinking about Discipleship

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The goal of the Christian life should be for most of our attitudes and actions to automatically come from who we are.

The goal of the Christian life should be for most of our attitudes and actions to automatically come from who we are.


Do you think Jesus had any habits? If so, what habits do you think Jesus had? Do you think Jesus had any bad habits? Not that Jesus had any sinful habits, but perhaps he was a nail-biter or slurped his matzoh ball soup. Maybe his mother had to remind him to not chew his food loudly when Uncle Zechariah and Aunt Elizabeth would come over for dinner.

Jesus’ habits

The Bible does mention several habits of Jesus. Luke 4:16 tells us that every Saturday Jesus had a custom, or habit, of going to the synagogue. We also know he had a habit of hanging out on the Mount of Olives, according to Luke 22:39. He was in the habit of teaching people, too, whenever crowds gathered, according to Mark 10:1. These were routines or patterns Jesus regularly followed.

What we automatically do

The word “custom” used in the verses above is ethos. It is who we are based on what we automatically do. It simply means what is normal for a person or group of people without having to think about it. We derive our word ethics from it. The same word is used in Hebrews 10:25 when it mentions some were in the habit (ethos) of not meeting together.

More than discipline

Habits are not instincts, though. They become automatic through accumulative action. Habits are made. But they are not just disciplines. Some people would say a good disciple is a well-disciplined person. I don’t think good disciples are undisciplined people, but something more than discipline is involved.

Who we are

Discipline is about training and controlling behaviors. Certainly this is part of Christian living. I wrote about that last week. At some point, though, attitudes, behaviors, and living into Jesus’ way should become part of who we are—an ethos should form. Jesus’ way of living should become our normal in more and more aspects of our lives.

Explore Further:

So how do we create these customs into our lives, like Jesus had? There is a lot of good research on the topic of habits. A few books you explore further online or at your library would be:

  • Josh Hunt, Break a Habit; Make a Habit
  • Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
  • Joyce Meyer, Making Good Habits, Breaking Bad Habits
  • Philip Nation, Habits of our Holiness
  • David Mathis, Habits of Grace
  • Edwin Lutzer, Getting to No


How have disciplines become habits in your life?

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