Monday, April 23, 2007

Intimacy and Mission

The Father revealed more of His Father’s heart to me recently as I sat in His presence. He took me back to the time when my two young sons and I used to walk the rocky beaches of Whidbey Island, Washington. As I pondered those times, He reminded me of why my sons used to love those times with me: they just wanted to be with Daddy. Indeed, the more I reflected on this, the more I realized that my sons always wanted to be with Daddy because they knew that Daddy loved them and that they loved Daddy. So it was that my sons and I hung out a lot together, becoming almost inseparable as they grew up.

I think the Father healed more of my own "father wounds" as I thought about this today…I realized how His Father’s love has changed me and how it continues to invite me to just be with Him. It also reminded me of how He loves just to be with me, just as I love being with my sons.

Then my thoughts turned to the question of intimacy and mission. Just as my sons learned to be like their daddy and longed to work alongside me just to be with me and do what I was doing, so those who walk in genuine intimacy with the Father long to be with Him so much that they engage in His mission from that place of intimacy--just to be where He is, all the time!

I have always been puzzled by those who see tension or even conflict between intimacy with God and being missional for God because, although I have known those who have managed to be missional without being intimate with God, I have never known anyone who was truly intimate with God who wasn’t also missional! Nor does Scripture show us any tension between the two: David was about as “missional” as a person can be, but the Psalms pulsate with his passionate pursuit of intimacy with God. And the greatest missionary of all, the Lord Jesus, lived in perfect intimacy with His Father and did nothing apart from that intimacy. Even Paul—perhaps the second greatest missional person ever—described his life in terms of intimacy more than mission (see Philippians 3:10-11).

So how are intimacy and mission related, and why is it so important to keep intimacy as the first order of one’s life? I am in the process of writing a long article on that question, and I will post it here as an attachment when it's finished (hopefully this week). For now, I give you just the main themes. First God's mission is intimacy (i.e., intimacy with us restored). Second, intimacy with Abba precedes, births, accompanies and sustains mission (if you read John 15:1-16) carefully you will catch these points!

More soon. In the meantime, may He draw you so deeply into His love that you remain forever captured and captivated!

Tom, the least of Abba's children.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Be Like Jesus (part 5)

Here's another brief thought about what it means to be like Jesus. How about we learn to have the same attitude towards money and possessions that He had? We know that He served God rather than money and taught that you cannot do both! (Matthew 6:24). We also know that He encouraged generosity (see Mark 12:41-44) and that He suggested that we choose not to worry about "things" at all! (Keep reading after Matthew 6:24!).

Someone who has done a wonderful job of addressing this issue (living it out as well as writing about it) is Randy Alcorn in his little book, The Treasure Principle. I have listed his 6 principles below for your consideration and comment. What would it look like for God's people in the US to grasp and live these out? (Answer: we would begin to be like Jesus in our attitude towards possessions instead of like our unbelieving neighbors!).

Treasure principles from Randy Alcorn.
"You can't take it with you -- but you can send it on ahead!"

Treasure Principle Keys
God owns everything. I'm his money manager.
We are the manager of the assets God has entrusted--not given--to us.

My heart always goes where I put God's money.
Watch what happens when you reallocate your money from temporal things to eternal things.

Heaven, not earth, is my home.
We are citizens of "a better country-a heavenly one" (Hebrews 11:16).

I should live not for the "dot," but for the line.
From the dot (our present life on earth) extends a line that goes on forever, which is eternity in heaven.

Giving is the only antidote to materialism.
Giving is a joyful surrender to a greater person and a greater agenda. It dethrones me and exalts Him.

God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.
God gives us more money than we need so we can give -- generously.

My wife, Jettie, and I have simplified these down a little: Because we are richly blessed we choose to live with gratitude and generosity, and we choose to live in way that we never spend our resources in a way that would keep us from being generous (i.e., we never buy anything large if it would hinder our being able to give considerable funds away at some point in the future).

What about you? I welcome your thoughts or questions.

Have a generous life!

Tom, the least of Abba's children.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Be Like Jesus (part 4)

     Hmmm. It occurs to me that my posts are not really going to deal with simple church issues per se! That's because I believe that what God is doing in the earth is far more than a change of structure of even core practices or values. As I have said before, He is calling us back to Himself and to a truly vital and alive life with Him. To that end, let's continue the journey of becoming like Jesus.      Jesus was the only totally selfless human being ever to live because He was completely secure in His Father's love for Him. And He challenged any who would follow Him to first deny self even before taking up the cross and following Him. Most followers of Jesus know this, but in the past I find that I often tend to become preoccupied with self even as I try to deny self and die to self! Then one day I read the following in Bill Johnson's book, When Heaven Invades Earth (pp. 147-148). May his words set you free from self-focused self evaluation!      
     In my own pursuit of God, I often became preoccupied with me! It was easy to think that being constantly aware of my faults and weaknesses was humility. It's not! If I'm the main subject, talking incessantly about my weaknesses, I have entered into the most subtle form of pride. Repeated phrases such as, "I'm so unworthy," become a nauseating replacement for the declarations of the worthiness of God… 
     I struggled for many years with self evaluation. The main problem was that I never found anything good in me. It always lead to discouragement, which led to doubt, and eventually took me to unbelief. Somehow I had developed the notion that this was how I could become holy—by showing tremendous concern for my own motives.
     It may sound strange, but I don't examine my motives anymore. That's not my job. I work hard to obey God in everything that I am and do. If I am out to lunch on a matter, it is His job to point that out to me. After many years of trying to do what only He could do, I discovered I was not the Holy Spirit. I cannot convict and deliver myself of sin. Does that mean that I never deal with impure motives? No. He has shown Himself to be very eager to point out my constant need for repentance and change. But He's the one with the spotlight, and alone can give the grace to change.
      There is a major difference between the believer who is being dealt with by God, and the one who's become introspective. When God searches the heart, He finds things in us that He wants to change. He brings conviction because of His commitment to deliver us. Such a revelation brought me to pray in the following manner:
     Father, you know that I don't do so well when I look inward, so I'm going to stop. I'm relying on you to point out to me the things that I need to see. I promise to stay in your Word. You said that your Word was a sword—so please use it to cut me deeply. Expose those things in me that are not pleasing to you. But in doing so, please give me the grace to forsake them. I also promise to come before you daily. Your presence is like a fire. Please burn from me those things that are unpleasing to you. Melt my heart until it becomes like the heart of Jesus. Be merciful to me in these things. I also promise to stay in fellowship with your people. You said that iron sharpens iron. I expect you to anoint the "wounds of a friend" to bring me to my senses when I'm been resistant toward you. Please use these tools to shape my life until Jesus alone is seen in me. I believe that you have given me your heart and mind. By your grace I am a new creation. I want that reality to be seen, that the name of Jesus would be held in highest honor.
      Amen and amen! Becoming like Jesus means that we allow God to be God, and that we focus on Him, trusting Him to lead us and change us according to His plan and power, not ours! 

Stay lost in His love,

Tom, the least of Abba's Children