Jesus came and turned everything upside down. Especially for the religious people. If we have been a believer for over a year--we have likely become religious people and part of the religious system. It is like a gravitational pull. We must be turned upside down in order to release the work that Jesus came to do.
He was upside down.
They expected him to hang out with them. They were the important people. Instead he was with prostitutes and sinners.
They thought he would honor them for their religious lifestyle. Instead he told them that they don’t even know God.
They expected Him to come like a big man, a king. Instead he came as a poor baby. He turned everything upside down from what people expected.
The disciples thought he would rule. Instead he went to the cross and gave up his life.
Everything upside down.
He turned the religious church upside down in Luke 4 when he said he came for the broken and oppressed. He turned the religious church's finances upside down at the temple. He turned leadership positions upside down when he washed feet. He turned the mission upside down when he said just go and make disciples.
After paying the price for all sin and resurrecting, the disciples must have thought that now, at last, he would equip them. After all, his vision—his last statement—was that they were to go to ALL nations. He has commissioned them to the world. He has ascended. He is God. Surely He would give them some big tools to use.
We always think bigger is better. Big crusades, big crowds, big buildings, big events, and big to-dos.
So think about being a disciple-- given the big command to go to all the nations. Surely Jesus would fill their pockets with a million dollars. What about a sound system? How about some religious clothes so that people would listen to them?
No—he just taught them how to heal the sick, preach the Gospel, and lay their lives down.
The very things we often don't want to do.
The way of Jesus always has been and always will be the upside down way.
I am not one for Christian movies as they too often have two-dimensional characters and trite plot lines.
In several ways, War Room (top box office sales last weekend) is guilty of this. But rather than focus on its short comings I thought I would mention what I did like.
- The heart of the movie’s message is about a prayer-relationship with God. I give the movie a thumbs up for keeping the spiritual encounters out of the walls of the church and into the closet of a personal relationship with God.
- The acting was better than average… well… for a Christian movie. I hate to put it like that, but it is true.
- The movie focused on one-on-one mentoring and personal discipling as the primary element for personal growth to take place. The plot line did a decent job of exploring the relationship between the older woman-mentor and the younger wife in need of personal transformation. This emphasis helped me buy into the changes that took place albeit within a two hour movie-time slot. I appreciated that small groups and one-on-one relationships were seen as key catalyzers of spiritual growth.
- The need to pass the mentoring relationship on to others was an excellent side-note for the movie. Intentionally asking God for people to reach out to and disciple was shown to be vital, organic, relational, and reproducible. Impressive.
- (Spoiler alert!) Finally, I appreciated that the renewed husband, in re-focusing his life toward Christ, became involved in community outreach with an outward focus rather than simply becoming one more church attender.
All in all, The War Room, has its shortcomings for sure, but it also has enough credible inspiration that it is worth the look.
Note a CNN article on the movie's unexpected success.
Your comments if you have seen it?
Comfort zones are just, well, comfortable.
No matter where we are in our journey we tend to seek predictability and routine over the wild ride of following the real Jesus.
The pull toward institutionalism and religion is a continual gravitational force that draws all of us away from the risky and unfettered lifestyle of an intimate communion with God as the central, guiding North Star.
I admit this in myself.
I recently found encouragement from Floyd McClung in his book “Follow: A Simple and Profound Call to Live Like Jesus.” He says:
“I have written this book with the underlying belief that any hierarchy and all institutionalization of the church lead us directly away from Jesus Himself. We must, therefore, constantly return to Jesus as our source and our example for how to live life and how to do church together. Studying His life, spending time in His presence, seeking to be filled with His Spirit, and fulfilling His mission with others in community—this is how we are to experience life as Jesus intended it.”
Floyd goes on to say that this book is about “how to be a fully devoted disciple of Jesus and not a pretender or an unthinking captive to cultural Christianity.” He says the beauty of living the Jesus way is summed up by living his simple lifestyle: love Jesus, love the world the way Jesus loves it, and to love others who love Jesus.
Mission—Love the world.
Community—Love one another.
While we may be continually challenged to forsake the comfort zones of religion, the Jesus-following life is inherently authentic, God-connected, and impactful in God’s infectious-yeast sort of way.
Two of my favorite people, Tony and Felicity Dale, are guest speaking at the Simple Church Conference later this month in Kentucky.
The conference, hosted by the Simple Church Alliance, has this description:
You are not alone! This year our heart is to encourage you with stories of what God is doing across our country and the world through people like yourself who are seeking to make disciples reproduce simple/organic forms of church.
More information here.
If you know of other upcoming, related conferences, please use the comment section to share with others!
“Movement” is probably an over-used word today, but I’m going to use it anyway.
One of the biggest faith movements in all of history is underway today. It’s the spiritual undercurrent that is slowly but inexorably rising because of Simple Jesus Followers. It is this steady growth of such followers that I call a movement.
These people are everywhere, on every continent of the world, and in every strata of society. They are not pointing at themselves, they are not broadcasting who they are on billboards, and they don’t even have a website defining themselves this way. But they have become radicalized by the radical love and reality of Jesus and He is their thing. They are all about the business of being in love with Jesus and expressing His glory through their everyday lives, gifts, and vocations with the understanding that all parts of life are sacred and meant to be lived in love and obedience to Him.
I know simple Jesus followers who are instigating movements of disciples that will impact nations. And I know Jesus followers who are impacting a disabled friend, neighbor, or adopted child thus expressing Jesus and, in God’s economy, having the same impact as the nation-slayer! The will of God being expressed is the mark of these followers and the measure of impact is the Spirit of God at work. Period.
The age of the limelight is over. It’s no longer about the professional ministers, the professional worship choreographers, and the professional religious-organization marketeers. It’s no longer about who is known, who has the giftings that are idealized and idolized, and who has exponential numbers in their resume. I am grateful that some good things came out of these types of expressions, but I am even more grateful that such grandiose demonstrations of religion are fading and making room for followers of Jesus to understand that the real movement is the growth of the uncommon, everyday expressions of the simple Jesus follower.
Jesus was and is an upside-down God. He was born in a stable, ridiculed by religious leaders, condemned by the rich and famous, beaten and spit upon. No, these are not necessary qualifications for His followers, it just points out that His movement, His Kingdom movement that is still alive and well today according to His promise, is being carried out mostly by those least recognized. Further, to sign up for his movement you can be rich or a pauper, you can have a degree or no education at all, you can have world-recognized talents or none at all, you can be outgoing and charismatic or just the opposite. God’s unrelenting plan, from the very beginning, is to work through those who love him and desire him above all else. No other qualification needed! And he is doing just that!
Perhaps the biggest obstacle of the western church is that the everyday follower does not believe in himself or herself or, maybe more to the point, does not believe in God’s power to work through ‘normal’ everyday lives. It’s time to throw off the shackles of the big and the beautiful and believe that every one of us is called to simply follow, with heart and passion, the God who does great things through us, and to see that, by so doing, we have the opportunity to be part of the greatest world-changing movement in history.