Last week I asked you to pray that I would be found guilty of being a Christian. In a way that was a foolish request. I was baptized at age 6 and confirmed as a member of the Methodist Church at age 11. I received a call to ministry at age 14 and my first appointment as a preacher at age 20.

For the past 44 years, I have faithfully preached the gospel, introduced people to Jesus, led congregations into their communities to feed the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless, care for persons with HIV/AIDS, etc.

To ask that I be found guilty of being a Christian was foolish.

What Does it Mean to be a Faithful Witness?

In another way, I was asking you to pray that I am a faithful witness to the Resurrection of Jesus. Luke, over and over, uses these words to express the life and work of the early disciples:

  • “…of that all of us are witnesses” – Acts 2:32
  • “To this we are witnesses…” – Acts 3:15
  • “And we are witnesses to these things…” – Acts 5:32
  • “We are witnesses to all he did…” Acts 10:39

I want you to pray that I am a faithful witness.

The question is, “What does it mean to be a faithful witness to the Resurrection?” Here are a few possibilities.

Possibility #1: To Believe the Resurrection is True

Is it to believe that the Resurrection is true?

For many people today, belief in the Resurrection simply acts as a guarantee of eternal life. We talk about Jesus being raised from the dead and how he is going to take us all to heaven one day. I must say I don’t believe God raised Jesus from the dead to prove that he could raise a few cantankerous saints.

God could do that.

The belief in our own immortality is persistent. It seems, that for many of us, belief in the Resurrection is actually a barrier to the reality of it. We can find people within the church who affirm the Resurrection for selfish and self-serving reasons. It is all centered on the desire to enter heaven. I believe God raised Jesus from the dead for a different purpose.

Possibility #2: To Live the Truth of the Resurrection

Is it to live the truth of the Resurrection? In and through the Resurrection, God established permanent residence on earth. The Resurrection places Jesus on this side of the grave, here and now, in the middle of this life.

Jesus is not standing on the shore of eternity inviting us to join him there. He is standing beside us, strengthening us in this life.

The good news of the Resurrection is not that we shall die and go home with Jesus, but that Jesus has risen and has come home with us. On the morning of the resurrection, God put life in the present tense and gave us the power to live in the here and now.

The early disciples proclaimed, “He is risen!” not because the dead rise. They made this proclamation because they were alive and were doing the things he had taught them to do.

Being a faithful witness to the Resurrection is to proclaim, “He is risen” by doing the things he has taught us to do. In and through the Resurrection, our lives are reshaped to conform to his life. Because of the Resurrection, our minds are reshaped to conform to his mind, and our living is reshaped to conform to his living.witness to the resurrection transforming mission

Possibility #3: Being the Living Presence of Christ in Everyday Life

The good news of the Resurrection is Jesus has risen and has come home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoner sisters and brothers with him. What if being a witness is not related so much to what we believe but is the primary way we respond to the hopelessness and brokenness in the communities in which we live?

Does the living presence of Christ show through our living?

The good news of the Resurrection is Jesus has risen and gives us the courage to confront the evil powers of this world. The evil powers of racial bias, gender bias, cultural bias, economic bias, residential bias, educational bias do not stand a chance against the power of the Resurrection.

What if being a witness is not based upon an affirmation of Christ’s living presence, but upon the incarnated presence of Christ in each of us? Would that mean that our faith in the Risen Christ would be seen in the way we love and care? And not only in how we care for each other in our church families but for everyone. By everyone, I mean all who are hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoners – all our sisters and brothers Jesus already loves.

Be the Resurrection

What if we, as Christians, are not called to believe in the Resurrection but rather are called to be the Resurrection?  Christ’s presence will be witnessed in what we say and do.

This season of the Resurrection, I continue to hear the words of Peter Gomes:

“…the resurrection is a continuing event which involves everyone who dares be involved in it.  Easter is not just about Jesus, it’s about you.”

Jesus has already claimed his new life.  What about you? Easter is not just about the past, it’s about the future.  Your best days are ahead of you.  The proof of the resurrection is in your hands and in your life.

witness to the resurrection transforming mission

“The proof of the resurrection is in your hands and in your life.” Please pray that I am a faithful witness of the Resurrection! And know that I am praying for you.

O God, raise Jesus in our lives so that all we do is a witness to your love and presence. So let it be!

This week we’ll be reading, reflecting, and responding to the Parable of the Rich Fool. Read Luke 12:13-21

April 8 – Luke 12:13-21 – Introduction

This Reflection on Reality challenges our assumptions that life consists in what we have or what we own. It offers a way of living as a Christian disciple in relationship to affluence and responsibility. The way of God is the way of living responsibly with things. Your identity is not in how much you have. You are a fool to be consumed by your possession. Your identity is in the God who has provided what you have. Wealth or lack of wealth is not the issue. Your identity in God is the issue. You might be “rich” in wealth but not rich toward God and God’s work.

 

April 9     

  • Read Luke 12:13
  • Reflect & Respond:
    • Assumption – Life consists in how much I have i.e., our possessions.
    • How did you live responsibly with what you own today?

Be reminded: Today, attempt to give more than you take. Then, let us know how you do.

 

April 10    

 

April 11   

  • Read Luke 12:15
  • Reflect & Respond: 1) Where did you witness greed today? 2) Do you consider yourself a person who has a little, enough, or a lot?

Be reminded, life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.

 

April 12     

  • Read Luke 12:16-19
  • Reflect and Respond:
    • How much is enough?
    • What do you do when you have more than enough?

April 13

  • Read Luke 12:20
  • Reflect and respond:
    • True or False?: I tend to think of others more than myself.
    • What did you experience today that reminded you that your identity comes from Christ, not from your possessions?

Be reminded, affluence brings responsibility.

 

April 14  

  • Read Luke 12:21
  • Reflect and respond: Is your barn filled with self or filled with God? Be reminded: God has already been generous to you. What does “being rich toward God” look like?

 

Take Note:

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What Parable is Next?

Week of…

April 15: Parable of the Great Banquet – 14:15-24

April 22: Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin – 15:1-10

April 29: Parable of the Lost Son – 15:11-31 – Part One (Focus upon 15:11-24)

May 6: Parable of the Lost Son – 15:11-32 – Part Two (Focus upon 15:25-32)

May 13: Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-14

Kirk Byron Jones, author of The Jazz of Preaching and editor of The African-American Preaching Library writes:

“Handling the resurrection is challenging; being handled by the resurrection is even more challenging.  In Alaine Alsire’s novel, Lazarus’ problem was not being raised; his problem was being raised ‘different.’ He was not the same person. Christian resurrection is not just about coming back to life, but coming back to life ‘different.’  We don’t do different well. In social relations, all too often we interpret different as deficient…

Being handled by the resurrection means constantly challenging our fear of the unknown, and even more…constantly challenging our fear ‘of the loss of the known.’  Being handled by the resurrection means learning to relax in the experience of new life. May we enter with God into the work of changing and recomposing our lives.  May we rise and cheer such resurrections.”

Any reflection I do upon the resurrection brings me to the discovery that the attention of the early church was focused on the transforming power of the risen Christ.  Those early followers of Jesus saw themselves as evidence of the power of the Christ to transform lives.

Even though there were those who did not want Jesus around, God raised him up and put him back to preaching, teaching, and healing. The early followers of Jesus understood Jesus to be with them in the midst of their present living. He was beside them, sustaining them. He was doing his work of preaching, teaching, and healing in and through them.

Transforming Presence

On the morning of the Resurrection, God gave us God’s transforming presence.  For me, God’s presence does not necessarily show up in the empty tomb, but the lives of grace-filled Christ-followers who put faith into action.

The crowning evidence of God’s transforming presence is not a vacant grave, but a Spirit-filled congregation of Christ-followers. Not a rolled-away stone, but a carried-away church. Not feel-good activities, but people engaged in the life and vitality of the community in which they live.

For me, the proof of the resurrection is seen in our love for one another and for the people who surround us. On the morning of the Resurrection, God gave us Jesus, raised from the dead, to new life, to new direction, to new possibilities, to new hope.

The power of Jesus’ resurrection is to reshape our lives to live the way Jesus lived and to think the way Jesus thought. The thrust of the resurrection is to help us change our way of living so that it begins to resemble the life of Jesus.

For you and me, the resurrection is the greatest event in all of life. It means that we live all of life in the presence, love, and power of God who we know and have experienced in Jesus.

A Continuing Event

The late Dr. Peter J. Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard wrote:

“…the resurrection is a continuing event which involves everyone who dares be involved in it.  Easter is not just about Jesus, it’s about you.  Jesus has already claimed his new life.  What about you? Easter is not just about the past, it’s about the future.  Your best days are ahead of you.  The proof of the resurrection is in your hands and in your life.

Wow! What a call to ministry! To help answer that call, I invite you to participate, with me, in a spiritual and missional spring training.

This is time for you and your congregation to practice the fundamentals of reading the scripture, praying and reflecting upon the scripture, and responding to the scripture.

Missional Spring Training

Beginning this Sunday, Easter Sunday, and continuing through the Season of Easter, we will focus on several parables from Luke’s gospel. We’ll focus on one parable each week. Throughout the week, we’ll look at each verse in the parable. Each day we’ll ask a variation of, “How does this reflect our current reality?”

It is my hope that we will become more and more the evidence of the Resurrection. As we become more and more acquainted with God’s presence in the people we meet and in the communities in which we live, may we become evidence of the resurrection.

May we enter with God into the work of changing and recomposing our lives.  May we rise and cheer such resurrections.

During the month of March, there are abundant reminders of the importance of resilience, fortitude, and determination. Lent always has these reminders.

But, there’s another event that happens annually that’s also hard to miss. Whether or not you’re a college basketball fan, the stories that unfold during the NCAA Tournament can leave you sitting on the edge of your seat.

More than once over the weekend, I thought to myself, “It’s over.” And then…

The Unimaginable Happened.

Late Saturday night, the Michigan Wolverines were in a battle with Houston. With 3 seconds on the clock, Houston was in the lead, 63-61.

They had a chance to add two more points but missed two free throws.

At the opposite end of the court, Michigan passed the ball to a freshman, Jordan Poole, who had not scored the entire game. He lobbed a 3-point-shot in the air with one second on the clock, and at the buzzer, won the game. (Perhaps much to the dismay of Buckeye fans following their 86-90 loss to Gonzaga.)

The Wolverines said, “the game is not over.”

After the Michigan v. Houston game, Coach John Beilein said of Jordan Poole, “He practices that shot at the end of every practice.” They also made their free throws, a fundamental shot in basketball.

Reminders of Resilience

Sunday’s games reinforced the message of resilience:

  • Nevada, down 22 points, came back to beat Cincinnati in a 75-73 stunner. The Nevada team said, “the game is not over.”
  • Syracuse, a first four qualifier, beat Michigan State, a favorite to be in the Final Four, 55-53 in the last minute of the game.
  • The 2017 National Champs, North Carolina, fell to 7 seed, Texas A&M.
  • Xavier, another favorite, fell to Florida State. The Seminoles showed the Musketeers “the game’s not over” with four minutes on the clock. Florida State won 75-70, knocking off a number one team.

Perhaps you’ll say, that’s why they call it March Madness.

Or, perhaps, you’ll say, “the game is not over.” While there is nothing about leading the church that is “a game,” I do believe God’s not finished with us yet.

God is NOT Finished With Us Yet

Just like the players, the coaches, fans, and referees, we have a choice to make as we lead the church. God’s not finished with any of us. The challenges leading the church can feel like the pressure of a big game.

Whether you’re frustrated because of leadership challenges in your church or trying to navigate a changing community. God’s not finished with you yet.

Whether you’re lamenting the demands of the church or yearning for the Easter morning celebration. God’s not finished with you yet.

Whether you’re feeling your church is disconnected from your community or you’re tired of trying to connect with little support from your church. God’s not finished with you yet.

Whether you’ve raised money in your church for special ministries or you have run out of money to be the special church in your community. God’s not finished with you yet.

To stay the course and embody the resilience, determination, and fortitude of those who are “playing to win” we need to practice our fundamentals.

If we’re honest, we all know how easy it is to overlook the daily practice of reading Scripture, prayer, and reflecting the love of God in my life. Busyness and the weekly rhythms of the local church can wear on even the most faithful.

You’re Invited to Practice

We’re on the Saturday side of Easter. Sunday is coming. There are opportunities to continue to live as faithful followers of Jesus who are filled with resilience and fortitude.

During the season of Easter, we’re heading into spiritual spring training with Parables: Reflections of Reality.

Sign up below. You’ll practice the disciplines that remind you, “the game is not over.” Or more importantly, God is not finished with you yet.

 

 

I grew up listening to the Cincinnati Reds on the radio. I remember placing my transistor radio under my pillow and listening to Waite Hoyt call the play by play. Over the years I have listened to Al Michaels, Joe Nuxhall, Marty Brennaman, and “The Cowboy,” Jeff Brantley. Today, I still wait to hear Marty say, “This one belongs to the Reds.”

In recent years, I have had the opportunity to attend several Reds’ Caravans. I have met some of my favorite players, talked with new prospects, gotten autographs, and listened to the hopes and expectations of those in the front office.

Read more

We’re expecting you at Spring Training…whatever the current season is!

Only there won’t be baseball bats and hotdogs. (Sorry to disappoint you ;))

There will be parables, prayers, and a reason for you to pause. This is Spiritual Spring Training!

“Parables: Reflections of Reality” is a seven-week journey of reading and praying the Parables, reflecting on the parable, and responding to God. It’s for individuals and/or groups.

That means this spring training is for YOU!

The Process:

  1. Read a Scripture.
  2. Reflect on a question.
  3. Respond to one question.

We’ll include a Deeper Dive into parables several days of the week. But, most of all, here’s your opportunity to engage the Scripture.

Head over to our Facebook Page to follow Transforming Mission. Then, request to join the Parables: Reflections of Reality Facebook Group. And make sure you “see first” to follow along.

Who is the For?

Individuals

Parables: Reflections of Reality is for anyone wanting to practice the disciplines of the faith, seeking to grow closer to Christ, and/or follow Jesus in an everchanging time.

Leadership Team/Church Council/Small Groups

“Parables: Reflections of Reality” gives groups a chance to practice talking about their faith. While it sounds simple, it’s not a practice most of our leaders embrace. What would happen if over seven weeks you practiced naming and listening for God’s movement together?

We’re certain you’ll grow closer to Christ, closer to each other, and may even have clarity on how God is inviting you to be a blessing in your neighborhood/community.

For the one looking to engage the spiritual disciplines, this process can provide structure and guidance. For anyone seeking to be faithful today, tomorrow, and the next day, this is a practice of faithfulness.

So, tell us, what spiritual practice are you ready to practice? Sign up below.  Here’s your opportunity to enter a season of spiritual spring training.

See you on the [mission] field!

 

The season of Lent begins on Wednesday.

Lent has traditionally been a time of preparation for baptism.  The early Christians utilized the time before Easter to prepare to be baptized on Easter morning.  The preparation could be an intense time of self-exploration, wonder, and questioning. 

No doubt, the preparation was also a holy time. People were learning what it meant to be disciples of Jesus.

I got to thinking about what it would mean to prepare people for baptism this Lent. There are two actions I’d take as we journey together this Lent.

  • First, we’d engage together in a discipline of reading, reflecting, and responding to God. You can find out more and download the Get Real Guide.
  • Second, we’d explore a pathway of discipleship together.

Disciple-Making Pathway Questions

Disciple-making is an ongoing journey of becoming who God would have us be. Here are the questions we’d reflect on with people preparing to be baptized and leaders of the congregation.

Welcome

  • How are you and your congregation reaching out and receiving new persons? For the people preparing for baptism, I’d ask them to share how they came to be a part of this congregation. Then ask the current members joining you in the conversation how they became a part of the congregation.
  • How is your congregation connecting with the people of your community, developing relationships, and engaging persons in service and care? Explore here their relationships with others throughout the congregation.
  • What would happen if you began to pray, “O God, send us the people no one else wants and help us receive the people you send to us?” How about we find out? Include this in your prayers for the weeks ahead.

Invitation

  • How are you and your congregation intentionally offering opportunities for people to make commitments to Christ? Something happened that led people preparing for baptism to this moment. Listen to their story and share your stories.
  • How are you leveraging the relationships of people in your congregation to develop relationships in your community?
  • What are you doing to equip people in your congregation to tell their God stories? Everyone has a story. What is yours?
  • What would happen if you began to pray, “O God, make us the church this community needs and give us the courage to be who you would have us be?” Here’s another prayer for your Lenten disciplines.

Nurture

  • How are you and your congregation growing in faith? Again, with the Get Real Guide close at hand, pause together and answer a few of the questions.
  • Are you participating in regular Bible study, prayer, learning, sharing, and accountability? That’s what the Get Real Guide is all about.
  • Are you reading the scripture, reflecting upon it, and responding to it? You’re correct, the Get Real Guide outlines this pattern for you to engage.
  • In your congregation, is every ministry an opportunity to reflect and respond to God’s presence in the community? Perhaps as you share together you’ll celebrate the ministries that point to God’s presence. Along the way, you might even identify places you’d like to serve in ministry.
  • What would happen if you focused more on participating on the mission of making disciples and less on meeting the preferences of the church members? No, that’s not a rhetorical question. Really, what would happen?

Engage

  • How are you and your congregation engaged in serving others in the community in which your church is located? Perhaps you’ll serve together this Lent.
  • How are you blessing others, meeting people in their place of need, and offering gifts of compassion, love, and justice?
  • What would happen if the people in your congregation, even those who live outside the community in which you are located, were engaged in the community (schools, city or community leaders, safety personnel, etc.)?

Imagine what might happen come Easter if we were welcoming, inviting, nurturing, and engaging people in the process of disciple-making while practicing together the disciplines of faith.

As we begin the journey of Lent, let’s be intentional about the journey ahead. We have forty days, plus Sundays, to get real about disciple-making.

I know where my focus will be. I’ll be focused on the questions above and Get Real. Where will you focus this Lent?