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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Movement vs. A Settlement - Matthew - pages 272-280

Matthew 11:12 (New International Version)

12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.

I want to be a part of a movement, not a settlement.

A movement looks toward the future.
A settlement lives in the past.
A movement constantly changes location.
A settlement constantly changes the furniture of its location.
A movement doesn't wait until things are perfect.
A settlement doesn't move until things are perfect.
A movement needs people to keep moving.
A settlement needs policies to keep from moving.
A movement assumes failure as the cost of trying.
A settlement avoids failure at all costs.
A movement refuses to settle down.
A settlement refuses to move out.

Since the days of John the Baptist until NOW, the kingdom of God is on the move. I made up this German word, "gödizmüvin", a while back. I've come to learn that this belief is a driving force in what keeps me moving. I'm not a part of a faith that is static and stationary. A mark of maturity is not settling down, slowing down or simmering down. Anyone who grafts themself into the kingdom has heard the voice of God a time or two say, "Lead, Follow, or get out of the way." The kingdom is forcefully advancing, and only those who are forceful enough to grab it and hang on get to ride this freight train.

I have a deep burden for the bride of Christ. I ache for the unchurched, but quite honestly I'm even more broken for the mischurched. By that I mean those who have attended church their whole life and haven't the foggiest clue what in the world they are a part of. I feel like they have more hurdles to get over to encounter the living God. They work feverishly to get to the point where they are faithful (same time, same place, same person). "You can count on me! I won't let you down!" They pride themselves in being an immovable fixture in the church. They do whatever they must to tame their wild urges, calm their deepest desires, and curb their pesky dreams. They are godly because they never rock the boat, speak out of turn or disturb the peace. But to me, faithful doesn't translate into immovable. Faithful means stepping out against popular opinion. Faith is more closely associated with Risk. Faith doesn't always have the insurance of moves forward without the gaurantee of anything but God's presence along the way.

I'm glad the kingdom of God is moving ahead forcefully. I love being a part of something that is advancing. You can almost hear God saying, "Stay on your toes, people. This is no place for nailbiters." We are invited into something that is already going...with or without us I might add. We don't get it going, we only jump on and hang on for dear life. The stamina of the kingdom of God has pulled it through some difficult seasons throughout history. It is the unstoppable force as Erwin McManus calls it. It is the undaunted movement of a sweating mob trying to keep up with God. 

I serve a God who has been advancing like a Rhyno since John the Baptist had his head lopped off...and I only see him picking up speed as his coming draws near. If you're looking to settle down, check out your local retirement home. If you're looking for a speed induced nose bleed, I think I just saw the kingdom race by at the speed of God. That's faster than the speed of light for you scientists. I'll catch you at the end of this wild ride.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

We need a name change - Matthew - pages 265-272

We must be a people who breathe new names over people with our words and lives.  We treat people the way we see people.  It’s not about going up to someone and giving them a new name, it’s about bestowing the very opposite thing that the world has been telling them about themselves in the name of Christ.

Bestowing new names

I've always loved how God came into people's lives and gave them name changes.  When I was reading Jesus' interaction with Peter..."You are Peter...and on this rock I will build my church."  That's like my dad coming up to me and saying, "You are Jason."  That is who you are.  In case you forgot.  In case you are gravitating back to your old name, Cephas.  Your old identity.

If my father, Charles Frank Holdridge, spoke into me, Jason Matthew Holdridge, and said, "You are Jason."  You are my son and your name means Healer.  It would be like God saying to me:

"Your name is Jason, and on your Healing I will build my church."  

God was always speaking new names over people...reversing curses...

“No longer will they call you Deserted,
Or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
And you land Beulah.”  -Isaiah 62:4

He takes the names of embarrassment:

  • Deserted – abandoned, alone, rejected.
  • Desolate – worthless, boring, stupid
And comes in and breathes in a brand new identity:

  • Hephzibah – desirable, attractive, lovely
  • Beulah – married, befriended, connected

Look at some other name changes in the Bible:

1. Jacob the Deceiver becomes…Israel the One who Overcomes. (Genesis 32:28)
2. Saul the Church-Hater becomes… Paul the Church Lover. (Acts 13:9)
3. Abram the exalted father of few becomes…Abraham the father a many nations. (Genesis 17:5-8)
4. Gideon the Wheat Thresher becomes…Gideon the Mighty Warrior.  (Judges 6:11-12)

I'm sure there are more...he did it with people and people groups.  And I think there is something powerful that happens in this exchange.

I hope I can do this for people who are trapped in a "shame name".  Giving people "new names" is part of the redemption process.

A two-by-two relationship with God - Matthew - pages 259-265

Our relationship with God was never meant to be one on one, it was supposed to be two by two.

Let me explain. 

There was a Rabbi/Talmid Relationship in Jewish Culture that had gone on for years.  Jesus didn't start it, he adhered to this cultural norm within the Jewish society.  It is at the heart of how he did ministry and, I think, how he longs for us to continue to do ministry.

You see, a Talmid of Jesus' day would surrender his life in order to be with his teacher, his rabbi. The disciple didn't only seek to know what the teacher knew, as is usually the case today. It was not enough just to know what the rabbi said, but the foremost goal of any Talmid was to become like the rabbi and do what the rabbi did.

This is a huge distinction as it relates to the relationship between students and teachers today. You see, a student wants to learn and know what the teacher knows. A Talmid (or disciple) in Hebrew culture, however, wants to be what the rabbi is.

But there is another historical piece of discipleship that I fear is all but lost in our modern Christian culture.  A disciple studying under an ancient Rabbi was always given a study partner to work with. They would help each other in their studies pushing each other to grow, keeping each other accountable to emulate the Rabbi they were following.

This was called a Talmidim

A Talmid is a disciple.  A Talmidim is a pair or group of disciples.

Jesus took this practice and developed it with each his disciples, not just the 12, but the 72. 
We all know that Jesus called twelve disciples. However many have missed the fact that he also combined them together in pairs.

 In Matt 10:2-4 the twelve disciples are listed in pairs.

Matthew 10:1-3 
He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
These are the names of the twelve apostles: 
first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew;
James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;
Philip and Bartholomew;
Thomas and Matthew the tax collector;
James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;
Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

So when Jesus sent the twelve out to do mission projects, he sent them in pairs (Mark 6:7). 

We see this model in various texts throughout the Scriptures, but especially in the gospels and epistles as the truth was spreading to various people groups.

Some things in the Bible require us to ask the question “What would Jesus do?”  Because we don’t know if he would own a Summer home on the shore, watch “Dancing with the Stars”, say the word “crap” or listen to “the Beatles”.  But when it comes to discipleship, there are some things that aren’t up for grabs.  They aren’t subject to our reinterpretation or spin-doctoring.  And in these scenarios the question needs to be asked…

“What Did Jesus Do?” not "What would Jesus Do?"

And very clearly…throughout the Bible…He put people in teams of two and sent them out as such on missions together.

Allow me to hose you down with Scripture that testifies to this fact.

We’ve obviously seen that he does this with the 12 and the 72…but the Scriptures are replete with this theme as the early church began to take over the world. 

Jesus didn’t come up with this idea…this was a part of Jewish culture; he was just obeying a common tradition that he deemed too successful to reinvent.

We see this two-disciple theme right off the bat with “John the Baptist” even before Jesus started his earthly ministry…


John 1:35-37 –
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 

37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.

Luke 7:18-19 –
 18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Mark 14:13 –
13 So he [Jesus] sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.

Matthew 21:1-3 – 
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.”

Luke 24:13-15 –
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.

Acts 12:25 –
 24 But the word of God continued to increase and spread. 25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.

Acts 15:22,32 –
 22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers.

Acts 15:36-41 –
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.

39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Acts 16:1-5 –
 1 He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Acts 19:21, 22 –
 21 After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

Acts 19:28-30 -
 28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him.

Acts 20:1-5 -
 1 When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia. 2 He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, 3 where he stayed three months. Because the Jews made a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia.

4 He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. 5 These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas.

Discipleship Duos, Talmidim Teams:
1. Paul and Sopater – Berea
2. Aristarchus and Secundus – Thessalonica
3. Gaius and Timothy – Derbe
4. Tychicus and Trophimus – Asia

Then everyone met together at Troas. hmmm?

Jesus did not send anyone alone; they went in twos everywhere they went.  This is more than just a principle, it borders on prescriptive.  We must join in twos for both survival and success. 

If you are only doing church, you can make it alone.  But if you plan on being the church, you have to work in partnerships, Talmidims.

Jesus knew, like Rob Base the great theologian from the 80’s sang in his song, “It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it out of sight.”

Primary Purposes of (Two-by-Two) Talmidim Teams in that culture:

1.   Read and memorize the Scriptures together.
2.   Talk about what the Scriptures meant to them.

1.   Choose little missions to live out the Scriptures.
2.   Talk about what the missions meant to them.

Two-by-Two – Disciples needed a live-in/live-with a consultant and a counselor

Why can’t the church put two and two together?  It seems like simple math.  

The questions is: “Why was the prerequisite of “Two by Two” so predominant in Scripture as a whole?”  Why did Jesus use this cultural strategy in his discipleship? 

There are several reasons that I see as I’ve studied this paradigm.
1.    Study
2.    Safety
3.    Self-Awareness
4.    Stamina
5.    Seduction
6.    Sanity
7.    Success

Duet. 32:30 –
“one man chases a thousand, but two put ten thousand to flight…”

Even with Jesus, the first thing He did when he started public ministry:  Found Friends.  And not just 12, but within the 12 he selected a few to journey more intimately with.

He took three of his closest friends with him to the Garden of Gethsemane to “stay awake with him”, to “pray with him”, or as he said, to “Watch and Pray”.  This is what partnership is for.  People to bear witness to your life and to journey with you in prayer through pain.

The ancient Christian teacher and writer Tertullian once said…

 “Solus Christianus, nullus Christianus” - A Christian alone is no Christian.

Though this might be going a little too far, I think it's powerful that the early church and the early writers saw this pairing of disciples essential to the health of the Christian and the spread of the gospel.

I hope this whole concept gives you something to chew on and act on in the days to come.  Get yo' bad self a Talmidim!  hehehe.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Not a Fan, but a Follower - Matthew - pages 252-259

John is sitting in prison waiting to be beheaded.  Like anyone who pours there life into a good cause, he was expecting a kickback.  Who could blame him?  He has spent his whole life sacrificing for God as the voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He was a zealot of the highest order, devout to beat the band.  In every human sense, he deserved special treatment and honorable mentions.  This was Jesus boy.  He was "the man".

And yet, when he was thrown into prison awaiting his imminent beheading, he had some questions creeping in that he wanted to ask Jesus.  They are questions of entitlement that any human being would have who feels God owes them something for their good behavior.

 2When John heard in prison what Christ was doing(in Galilee), he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"

Why did he ask this question?  Because he’s a human…not a hero.  

We are all humans…people.

Have you ever had someone ask you a question, when they are really making a statement?  That’s what’s going on here.

**Make no mistake, John knew that Jesus was the ONE…
-       He leapt in his mother’s womb when Elizabeth and Mary were pregnant and met with each other.
-       When asked who he was by religious leaders, he quickly responded, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, preparing the way from the Lord.” Jn. 1:23
o   (Is 40:3) - ‘A voice cries in the wilderness “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God”’
-       When it came time for Jesus to start his earthly ministry, John saw him coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world!”
-       He was the one whom Jesus asked to baptize him at the commencement his 3 years of public ministry.
-       At that baptism, he heard the voice of God shout from the sky, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.  Listen to Him.”  He also saw the Spirit of God take on the form of a dove and lightning, and hover over the place where Jesus was immersed in the river.
-       He was the one who uttered the powerful phrase, “He must increase, I must decrease.”

"Are you the one who was to come,
or should we expect someone else?"

I can’t believe how quickly expectancy turns into expectations.
We go from being Grateful to feeling Grated.
We move from overjoyed to annoyed over time.
We devolve from selfless to selfish.
We digress from Christ-o-centric to Egocentric.

No matter how hard you try not to care, It’s hard not to be offended when you feel like you’ve poured your life into the Kingdom and God doesn’t give you special treatment…
…a back stage pass.
…a package of fringe benefits.
…a free ride.
…a payoff.

Our motivations start very well-meaning, altruistic and generous.  Then ever so slowly they devolve into actions done for praise, attention, and honorable mentions.  We say we don’t care about who gets the glory, but deep inside, we are counting credits at the end of the movie to see if our name is scrolling in bold italicized letters.  We almost can’t help it from happening in our flesh. 

“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

In other words…"WHY AREN’T YOU SHOWING UP FOR ME AFTER I'VE SHOWN UP FOR YOU???  If I had my druthers…you would get me out of this predicament…this pickle."

I’m sitting in prison…what are you doing in Galilee?
I’m about to get beheaded…when are you going to get me out of here?
I’ve done a lot of amazing things for you…all I’m asking is for you to return the favor.
Correct me if I’m wrong…but don’t you owe me something after all I’ve done for you?

I love this simple quote:

Nobody can be kinder than the narcissist while you react to life in his terms.  
                                                                                                      - Elizabeth Bowen

**Jesus goes on to say in verse 4…

4"Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.

Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."

“Blessed are those who don’t fall away on account of me.”
-       Bless are those who don’t fall away because of me.
-       Blessed are those who don’t fall away when I don’t follow their instructions.
-       Blessed are those who don’t fall away because I don’t fulfill their expectations.
-       Blessed are those who don’t fall away when I don’t answer their every prayer in the affirmative.
-       Blessed are those who don’t fall away when I don’t show up at their every beck and call.
-       Blessed are those who don’t fall away because I won’t follow their plans.
-       Blessed are those who don’t fall away when they find out their not in the driver’s seat.
-       Blessed are those who don’t fall away when suffering comes and I don’t immediately rescue them out of it.
-       Blessed are those who don’t fall away because they aren’t getting their way. (SPOILED)

Have you ever thought…
“Maybe I should be looking for someone else…
cause Jesus isn’t behaving.”

Let me ask you something…. “What do you do when Jesus doesn’t behave?  When he doesn’t mind you very well?  When he doesn’t respond to your prescribed expectation?”

The subliminal message of American Christianity is that you snap your fingers, or tap your little ruby red shoes, or rub your little ancient lamp, or stick a quarter in your spiritual vending machine and POW! Shazam!  Jesus is at your beck and call, fanning you and feeding you grapes.

It’s so easy to want Jesus as long as he gives me what I want…

I’ll tell you what I see in myself and in a lot of other American Christians…
-       I see people exiting stage-left when they discover they aren’t the central personality in the gospel story.
-       I see people bailing out when they don’t get their way.
-       I see people questioning Jesus whenever they run into calamity.
-       I see people leaving the church when it doesn’t meet their specific needs.
-       I see people giving up on prayer if they don’t get their desired outcome.
-       I see people following Jesus with the condition they get something out of it.
-       I see people drawn to stick around so long as Jesus behaves.

**And I think what Jesus is looking for is someone who will say: “I’ll give my life to you, no strings attached, no small letters at the bottom of the contract, no disclaimers. NO more following you on my terms.  I’ll follow you for you.” 

 As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the windIf not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

   'I will send my messenger ahead of you,
      who will prepare your way before you.'
11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

**What were you drawn to when you went to see John?…
1.    “A reed swayed by the wind?” – Someone who was a people pleaser.
2.    “A man dressed in fine clothes?” – Someone who was slick and professional.
- “John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt
around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” – Matt. 3:4
3.    “A prophet.” – Someone who was a visionary and a mouthpiece of God.

Jesus goes on to say…
12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.

The Greek word for forceful is the same root word for violent.  It carries with it the idea of a clashing, a crashing.  Something marked by intensity or great emotional force.

The kingdom of God isn’t for the faint of heart.  It’s not for the dropouts and copouts.  It’s not for the ones looking for a free ride.  It’s not the people looking for easy street.  It’s not for the freeloaders and back-drafters.  It’s not for the weak-willed and the road-killed.  It’s not for the pathetic, lethargic, or apathetic.  Those souls can’t hold on to the intense forward movement of the Kingdom…of the explosive and dynamic message of the Gospel.

It’s for the people who have a heart to be reckoned with.  A soul that can hold on to something wild, raw and aggressive.  A spirit that wants to take risks and follow God into the bowels of this world…reaching out at the risk of their lives.  This is the kind of kingdom that we are invited into.

The kingdom that is near, at hand.
The kingdom that is in our hearts.
The kingdom that is forcefully advancing.  Not sheepishly, not swimmingly, FORCEFULLY. 

People who are absorbed in their own little empires, will never lay hold of the kingdom…the kingdom that must be laid hold of with both hands if it’s ever to be grasped at all.  You can’t hold your empire with one hand, and God’s kingdom with the other.  It takes everything you’ve got to lay hold of something this forceful, this vibrant, this intense.

16"To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
 17'We played the flute for you,
      and you did not dance;
        we sang a dirge
      and you did not mourn.'

God doesn’t always do what we want him to, when we want him to, how we want him to.

We could be having great success, all the while he’s crying.
We could be having the worst day of our lives, all the while he’s filled with joy.
Our church could be growing while God is dying inside.
Our church could be shrinking while God is coming alive.

Blessed are those who don’t fall away on account of me.
Blessed are those who don’t fall away when I don’t behave according to their expectations.

When you follow God only when you get your way…
It’s no longer Theology…it’s Meology.
It’s not longer about deity of Jesus…it’s about the meity of "Jason". (insert your name)

Theology is the study of God.
Meology is the study of Me.

Theology concentrates on the worship of God.
Meology concentrates on the adoration of Me.

Theology speaks of the glory of God.
Meology speaks of the awesomeness of Me.

Theology seeks to promote God’s dreams and desires.
Meology seeks to endorse My objectives and aspirations.

Theology centers on Jesus.
Meology orbits around Me.

Jesus has asked us to follow Him.  He is not following us.  And though you have asked him into your heart…the real alteration of lifestyle and worldview comes when He invites you into His…and you accept his invitation.