I love bedtime in my home right now. My boys are 4 & 5 and their imaginations are easily captivated by a good story. Bedtime routine with dad is regularly 45 minutes but I cannot help it. I only have a few years with these boys like this and I plan to give it everything I can. The coup de gras of bedtime is the story. We either read the next story in the Jesus Storybook Bible, or I tell a tale from the Adventures of Beke & Zen.
Adventures of Beke & Zen
That’s right. I made up a story one night a couple of years ago on the fly about 2 brothers who “LOVE ADVENTURE!” and their names were “Beke & Zen.” Completely different than my two sons in front of me named Zeke & Ben. Of course they decided this was an instant classic and the next night I heard “can we hear another beke & zen story dad?” Thus set the trajectory of the adventures of beke & zen. They’ve been to the moon, the deepest oceans, to the U.N., to Krispy Kreme, Africa, and a far away land called Texas.
The Fire Breathing Dragon
Tonight was the scariest tale yet. I went for it. Short Version: I told them about the time 2 brother knights (Beke & Zen) killed an evil fire breathing dragon (15 houses tall) in order to save princess ellie (who was wandering around the room yelling “DADA!”) who was stuck in the tall tower guarded by the dragon. Beke & Zen courageously killed the dragon and rescued the princess from certain death.
The Knight Always Wins
When I finished the story my oldest son looked at me very concerned and said “but Dad, what if the dragon would have won the battle?” His nervous tone and sad eyes revealed a genuine fear of this creature dad had introduced tonight. I looked at him with a big smile and said son “The Knight Always Wins.” like only children can, his whole body changed in an instant and with a giant smile he said “Yes! The knight always beats the dragon! That’s great dad!” The fear of the dragon dissolved in the certainty of the knight’s victory.
Here I find myself tonight reflecting on that moment longing for his joy. The joy my son’s confidence in the knight gives him. The true story of the world is that of a knight who always wins. He always defeats the enemy to rescue his princess. He never once leaves the princess because the dragon is too scary, and he never once fails to defeat the dragon.
My son will no doubt create new stories where those knights face off against dragons. And his favorite part will be telling the climax of the story. Because the knight always wins.
Here at the Summit Church we are Reading through the New Testament in a Year. If you don’t have a discipline of reading through the bible, you should join us. We’ve got some great resources and a daily update on twitter.
Today we are in Philemon, a short one-chapter book of the New Testament that I don’t think I’ve ever really studied in depth. #pastorfail. As I sat there reading it I thought to myself: Why is this in the bible? Before you call me a heretic let me explain why I asked and then what I think God taught me today. Warning i didn’t read any commentaries or anything. Just me & the bible. organic bible reading. no supplements.
Why is it in the bible? I mean its a pretty simple, clear letter from Paul to Philemon. Philemon is a christian who used to have a slave named Onesimus. Paul meets him in prison, Onesimus comes to faith, and Paul is telling Philemon to receive Onesimus as a brother, not a slave, when Paul sends him back. That’s pretty much the purpose. Take Back Onesimus. Seems like such a tertiary subject matter, hardly worthy of canonical status. Out of all the letters Paul sent, this is one that made it? It’s practically a telegram. Philemon (STOP) take back Onesimus (STOP) Grace & Peace (STOP). Didn’t Paul have some better material we could’ve used? Outside of it’s connection to Colossians, Why in the world did God, via the church fathers, put this in the bible?
What I think God taught me today. I confess I need more time in here so these are big picture thoughts. verse 6 is a little confusing to me & verse 20 a little odd in my ESV reading.
- Love is a more powerful motivator than fear. Paul reminds Philemon that he could “Command” him, but instead chooses to “appeal” to him “for love’s sake” (v.9). This isn’t veiled language. This is Paul reminding Philemon that charity (in this case receiving Onesiums) must not be done by compulsion but by one’s own accord (v.14). He’s recalling Jesus’ “least of these” teaching (Matt 25.40). Paul probably gives more commands than any other bible author. And it would be easy to turn our faith into a “Do this” religion. But right here we catch Paul choosing the harder task of asking (it would have been easier to just command philemon) Philemon to remember Christ and respond out of the love he has for Christ. And he knows that by appealing to love, Philemon will not just obey, but will go above and beyond to serve his brother. Because love is more powerful than fear.
- This letter is a clear picture of discipleship. The other reason I think it is here, is to teach us how we are to go about a discipleship relationship. Look at the structure.
- Paul first encourages Philemon in his love & faith. He sees the grace of God in Philemon & points it out. “Look at God’s grace on your life! I’m so encouraged to see it!”
- He acknowledges his role as an influence (maybe even a spiritual father) in Philemon’s life. We don’t have to shy away from being voices of influence in the lives of those who seek such a voice out.
- He connects the Love of Christ to Philemon’s life. He APPEALS to the love of Christ and shows Philemon a way he can put it to work. He shows him a path, but he doesn’t command Philemon to go down it. I think this is a great example of exhortation.
- He finishes with the grace of Christ. Paul never gets far from the grace of Christ in his letters. Nor should we in our conversations and relationships. Saturate discipleship in the grace of christ.
There is some learning from this AM. What do you think? Why is Philemon in the bible?
Ok, time for a little research action. I think in order to speak into culture, you gotta know it. So, will you answer the following couple of questions to help me learn how people relate to one another? no wrong answer. Oh, and while I would agree with you, for the purpose of this poll exclude your spouse as your closest friend. Let’s just hope that’s a given and talk about others. 5 questions. GO!
I’m spending some time with Trevor Joy preparing a book that will be released next spring on empowering discipleship in the local church. One of our big emphases is that Discipleship is serious. So let me holla at my friends who lead small groups and lead small group leaders. Admittedly, I’m listening to Imagine Dragons and feeling like William Wallace about to call some of my fellow people to stop settling for far less than what God has for us.
So here it goes boys & girls. Leaders of the 21st century church: FREEDOM!!!
Discipleship is a big deal. A really big deal.
If you lead a small group you probably know Matthew 28.18 – “Go therefore and make disciples.” You’ve heard it said the command word in the sentence is to make disciples. That’s the measure of how you are doing fulfilling the one mission God has given you. Period. You and I need to wake up really freaking fast then. Because according to the numbers, our generation is on the top deck of the titanic sipping champagne as it takes on water. Very shortly, we are going to realize the problem only to realize at the same time too much damage has been done to repair it. And the american church is going to look like a handful of lifeboats bobbing around with no direction in the sea of a skeptical culture (dang, didn’t see that metaphor going that far when I started).
Ok, doomsday scenario paused. I know God will “never let the gates of hell overcome the church.” The big C church will stand, But unless we get some kind of serious, the American church will continue to make converts & cause junkies, not disciples.
Here is a 3 part plan to change the course we’ve set.
- We must believe discipleship is a big deal.To say it in all caps for emphasis: DISCIPLE MAKING IS NOT A PROGRAM, ITS THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH!
- We must set a bar for leaders that matches the weight of the call God has put on our lives. Listen, this is too big of a deal to treat it lightly. If you depend on your small groups to be the disciple making units in your church, you need to put a great deal of your attention there. Leaders should take the role of leading very serious. Leaders of Leaders should take their supporting role very serious.
- We must equip leaders to thrive above that bar. Pastors should take the care and equipping of both sets of leaders very serious. Church budgets should take disciple making very serious.
Song is over, I’m out!
I was arrested by Isaiah 6.1-8 this morning. Seriously. I wasn’t planning on reading it, but I opened my computer and there it was over on the ESV site that I’d left my browser on. And much like Isaiah, it was like I was swept into something neither my heart nor mind were prepared for. If you are not a christian, don’t worry I’m not talking about some crazy trance or anything. We christians believe the Bible is the word of God & that we are being led by the spirit of God each day. So when the word of God is open in front of us, the spirit of God sometimes kind of lights up our soul in response to what we are reading.
It’s like a double shot of God. ha! that one might not make some happy. but I did just find a good title for this post. A triple shot is a rightly done church service. where the WORD of God (1) is opened, proclaimed, and affirmed by the PEOPLE of God (2) through the leading of the SPIRIT of God (3). Which is why I want to gather with my church every weekend.
Maybe another way to think about it: Think like those times where you have those “AHA best idea ever” moments (for me the shower is where those happen. no idea why). Now imagine those weren’t just good ideas/answers that put your mind at rest, but were deeply satisfying to your soul as well. This morning that’s as close an analogy as I can get. Christians, sorry if that sounds heretical somewhere. chill out if so.
Anyway, Isaiah 6.1-8 shook me and it’s because of how clear it seemed to me as I read it. I was frightened by God’s holiness, deeply convicted of my sin, inexpressibly thankful for God’s mercy to me, and joyfully motivated to go where he calls me.
Instead of preaching it to you here I encourage you to go read it. Or just open your bible to any passage. I believe God may arrest your soul as well. By that I mean He just may cause you to go from casual reading speed to an emergency brake stop because directly in front of you is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. And you will stare through your windshield in utter amazement unable to take your eyes off it. In that moment, God in his grace is meeting with you. Showing you he is indeed real, alive, mighty, merciful, and intentional with your life.
Trevor joy, a good friend and fellow pastor, asked me to have a conversation with him about biblical community that he could record so he could see my face whenever he was having a down day. Figured I’d share it with you. In all seriousness, I’m honored he asked me to participate in the discussion generated around the new book “creature of the word” by two of his pastors Matt Chandler & Josh Patterson, and the legendary Eric Geiger who secretly runs a small company in TN called LifeWay.
Hope it is helpful for you. Please ignore the pixels on my face.
Unfortunately I cannot figure out how to embed it here, so you gotta watch it on FACEBOOK.
I’m a fan of Soul Pancake for a few reasons. One reason is the creativity they bring to illuminating the core of the everyday person. I love the video below. I’m sure if you visit the blog regularly you are tired of me saying “YOU ARE DESIGNED FOR COMMUNITY!” Me too. Here’s a different angle, that is really a lot of fun. hope you enjoy. I may have to bring a ball pit to the triangle.