Category Archives: faith

Christmas in Three Acts – Act 2: The Innkeeper

This is the second of three monologues on the Christmas story. In this one I chose to use the on stage screen to represent a second character’s part of the conversation thus putting the audience in the place of that character. From the response we received that mechanism worked pretty well.

Simeon here is probably best done with a rather stereotypical Jewish accent.

<Graphic on screen: ”Good day Simeon…”>

<looking up from imaginary set of “books” or real set of “scrolls”> Ah, Mathias, trust a tax collector to be on time. <chuckling> I have prepared the records from the last month for your review. I believe you’ll find them all to be in order as usual.

<flipping through a page or two>

You can see here that things have returned to normal after the crowds we had for the census. <shaking his head> While I do not begrudge the money to be made from such crowds it was a busy time indeed. If only Jesse and his sons had lived anywhere other than Bethlehem, perhaps then we would have seen an increase in business without the entire town overflowing.

<Graphic on Screen: “Yes, the home of the line of David, the shepherd king.”>

<Groaning, rolling his eyes> Ah you have done it now Matthias…reminding me of shepherds….<shaking his head> Do you know Mathias, that a flock of shepherds actually smells worse than a flock of sheep? <flipping through the pages> Yes, here it is, the last night before the official census was to begin.

A young couple comes to my door as evening is falling, obviously weary from the road. I am run off my feet as it were trying to keep up with my guests when they arrive looking for a room. Can I tell you Mathias I almost laughed. A room? In Bethlehem? That night?

<holding up his hands>Buuuut….I am not an unkind man Mathias as you well know, and the young girl appeared ready to burst with child soooooo…I offered them the hospitality of my stable. <chuckling> Do not look at me so. They were in need and I did not charge them….much. <pointing to the books>

I thought nothing of it…that is until later that night.

I awoke, not from any particular sound but from a sense of something of import happening…that is the best way I can describe it to you Mathias. I knew there was something afoot. I dressed quickly and checked the guest rooms. I thought next to check the beasts when I remembered the young couple.

<frowns>Imagine my surprise Mathias when I go out back to my stables to find a veritable flock of shepherds bobbing like chickens around the door. The smell was almost too much to approach but I managed to get the attention of one of the men on the edge of the crowd only to be told a fantastic tale about the birth of the child.

<pausing>

You know Mathias I believe that too much time spent with sheep makes a man as dumb as one…King David not withstanding…

<Graphic on screen: “I have heard the tale”>

<Second graphic on screen “They say the child is the messiah”>

 <nodding> Then you too have heard the foolishness!! Imagine, the messiah, born in a barn, sleeping in a feed trough!! And these shepherds actually believed the tale!!! Some story about an angel, or an army, appearing and telling them it was so. And Mathias, they stayed all night!! Worse yet they went through the dark streets of out little town telling others, many of whom came to see for themselves.

<Graphic on screen “You do not believe their tale?”>

<laughing> Mathias, I am business man! What time do I have to spend on the superstitions of some wandering herdsmen who probably inhaled too much smoke from a dung laden fire and imagined the whole thing?

<shaking his head>No my friend. I saw the child. He looked as other new-borns…gangly, messy, odd shaped head. I congratulated the couple of the birth of their son…but that is all it was. And, as my gift to them, I did not even charge them for the use of the stable and the loss of a night’s sleep.

<considering, pouting a moment> Annnnd if it should turn out I am wrong perhaps “the messiah”  will remember kind Simeon who let his parents stay for no charge. <laughing> Perhaps he will even pay for the night himself!!

Of course, then you would charge me the taxes…either way I lose.

<Curtain>

Simeon missed it. What are you don’t this holiday season to help assure that you don’t “miss it”?

Christmas in Three Acts – Act 1: The Shepherds

Several years ago I was asked to write, and perform, three monologues in preparation for Christmas. The idea was to capture the story of Jesus birth from the perspective of some of the participants. This is the fist of those three acts.

The setting is a Bethlehem street just outside the stable. When I played the part I gave the shepherd the voice of Watto, the junk dealer who owned Anakin and his mother in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I wanted him to come across rustic and rough around the edges.

 

The Gospel According to Luke

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[1] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

 

Come my friend, come. <stepping forward, then pulling an imaginary person aside>

You want to know what is happening here tonight I think, eh? Come aside and I shall tell you a tale almost too amazing to believe but I swear to you it is all true.

Tonight we were in the fields as usual, tending to the sheep. Because it is the lambing season there are more us of watching the flocks at night. But it is a comfortable camp as camps go, eh?  May Yaweh-Rohi strike me down if it is not as I say.

Tonight we were preparing for the second watch as usual, some waking, some preparing to sleep, others sleeping soundly, or so the sound of their snoring would make it seem, when suddenly there was a brilliant light…lighting the camp as though it was day…it seemed the light of a thousand camp fires had descended into our midst. And there in the middle of the light stood the most fearsome man you have ever seen, clad in white fire and golden armor.

Men began to run in every direction, some loosed their slings into the light as though a stone could hurt that one, eh? All were afraid, yes, even I, Gazez Ben-Hesed <Gah-zeez’  Ben Heh’-sed> was afraid. The camp was in a panic….all but the sheep…they just stared into the light. Sheep, eh?

No, my friend it is true…and what did this apparition say to us you ask? He said “Do not be afraid”. Pfffft….simple enough to say when you are holding a sword and surrounded by the light of the sun.. but…as soon as he had said it I felt the fear drain out of me, all of us did, and we came closer to hear what he would say next.

He told us, <in an alternate ‘angel’ voice>“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” <abner voice>Even as he said the word I felt joy lightening my heart <angel voice etc.>Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christthe Lord.” At this my heart began to pound. The messiah? Born now? In Bethlehem? So close? “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” At this some began to laugh. The messiah, in a manger? Well then he had better be wrapped in cloth or the animals will get to him.

But before the laughter could die on their lips the field was FULL of warriors, clad as this man and what did they do then eh? This magnificent army? They began to sing my friend, they began to sing…<emphatic> SUCH singing you have never heard!!!! My heart leapt at the sound, I felt that it would burst in my chest. But then suddenly they were gone and in their absence we felt the world stand still. <conspiratorially, nodding towards the stable>

To tell you the truth my friend I believe it was in that moment the child was born eh?

There is no need to tell you we were excited, though some were still skeptics…”Let us go and see this thing we said” <pause, becoming, thoughtful, reverent>

My friend that army of warriors I told you of…they were indeed angles, may Yaweh strike me if it is not so….and the child? He is indeed the messiah as you can see. For did not the angels proclaim his birth?

<shaking head, coming back to the moment in the story>

As I said some STILL did not believe even after all we had seen and heard, but still they were willing to come look for themselves. <waving a hand to indicate the group> Some are still here but the others have gone through the town telling this tale for having seen the child even the skeptics now believe.

<moving back towards the manger as though pulling the new comer along for a better look> Come my friend see for yourself…it is the lambing season and a little one has been born here tonight…come along, come…let us adore him…

~Curtain~

What do you think it would have been like to be one of the shepherds on that night 2000 years ago?

 

 

 

 

 

Three Steps to Spiritual Hydration

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you drink and drink and drink but can’t seem to slake your thirst? Typically you wake up and find out you were REALLY thirsty in real life and THAT is why you couldn’t fix it in your dream.
I think I woke up a bit this morning. I realized that in real life I am spiritually thirsty.  Perhaps it was the fact that the message was spot on this morning at church. Perhaps its because the last three or four weeks have been jam packed with stress on just about very level.  Whatever the cause the experience of “waking up thirsty” reminded me of a few things this morning:
  • Spiritual thirst sneaks up on you. You typically don’t even know you’re thirsty until refreshment catches you by surprise. The truth is we typically wind up spiritually dehydrated before we even knew we needed a drink.
  • Spiritual thirst affects our vision. It becomes the lens through which we view life. We didn’t put the glasses on but our vision is shaded all the same.
  • Spiritual thirst affects all of our relationships. Because it shades what we see it shades how we think, act, and feel and THAT rubs off on the people around us.
So how do you beat something that insidious? If I don’t even know I am thirsty how can I ever expect to drink enough to satisfy it? Allow me to suggest three steps to spiritual hydration.
Step One: Guzzle, don’t sip.
What is it that wakes up your soul? Is it a particular piece of music? A picture, a place, or spending time with a particular person perhaps?  As we come into the heart of the Christmas season there will be stressors and time demands enough to distract even the most spiritually diligent of us. So go to your favorite passage of scripture, your favorite carol, or your favorite Christmas tradition. Seek it out and take the time to relish it, to drink deeply of it.
Remember, the trouble with spiritual thirst is that we don’t know we’re thirsty until we get a drink. But that single drink that identifies thirst isn’t enough to quench it so when you take that first drink be prepared to drink deeply and repeatedly.
Step Two:  Look beyond the cup. 
That thing that you identified in step one is really the cup from which you’ll start to drink your spiritual refreshment. As with real thirst it isn’t the cup that satisfies, it is the contents.  So in the spiritual sense you need to ask yourself what is it that the cup is pointing me towards? What is it that my soul is thirsting after?
Step Three: Identify the cause.
Most of us would probably be surprised at just how close we are to physical dehydration. That’s because we drink beverages that don’t truly hydrate: coffee, soft drinks, beer, wine…good drink that may even temporarily satisfy thirst but don’t hydrate.
The only way to truly spiritually rehydrate is to discover what it is that is making us thirsty. What are we drinking in that leads us to think we’re satisfied?
Find a minute this week to take a spiritual drink for it is only by drinking that we discover we’re thirsty. Drink deeply and attend to that for which your soul thirsts. Pause just long enough to discover what it is that is contributing to your thirst…then go back to the top and drink again, and again.
What are the cups that hold spiritual refreshment for you? What is it that your soul thirsts after?

Men and Women: part 2 – the women

If you recall last week  in Men and Women: part 1 I made the claim that men were designed by God to be illustrations of His justice and were therefore designed to be dangerous by nature.

By contrast I asserted that women were designed as illustrations of God’s grace and are therefore designed to be beautiful by nature.

Because there is also an enemy playing a role in the story, and enemy who can only twist truth and not create it, we explored the idea that men were often duped into being dangerous in the “wrong way” and wound up being dangerous to themselves, their loved ones, or not at all.

But this same enemy also dupes women into focusing on being beautiful in the “wrong way”. The beauty that God designs into ALL women is NOT physical appearance. it is something much more. Granted, the world runs on the notion that beauty, and beyond that sex, sells but that should come as no surprise. Scripture refers to the enemy as the prince of this world.

Imagine for a moment that this notion is correct, that men are supposed to be dangerous, in a spiritual sense, by design and women beautiful, spiritually, by design. Now think of the way truly, amazingly, stunningly physically beautiful women are often described. We refer to them as “dangerously beautiful”. I’m saying this is no coincidence.

The notion of a dangerous beauty is a standard theme found in literature across cultures! It could easily be argued that this overt focus on physical beauty alone results in something much more akin the the spiritually masculine than it does to the intended feminine!

But it gets even worse.

The women’s lib movement of the 70’s resulted in women rejecting stereotypical beauty for a much more masculine approach to life in an attempt to even the playing field in the corporate world. So in either case we wind up with women becoming masculine…NOT good.

I freely confess that I am treading in deep water here. I do not lay claim to any secret knowledge when it comes to understanding women. But as I read the scriptures with this lens in mind a clear image does start to emerge.

If God does indeed intend for women to be beautiful by design as illustrations of His grace what does that look like? Fortunately scripture gives us a glimpse of just such a woman in Proverbs 31. Let me suggest three characteristics of the beautiful woman taken from that description:

She has a confidence based on conviction

The passage describes her as being of noble or virtuous character. Many commentators have this translated as something akin to: a strong, capable woman with strong convictions. There isn’t anything weak or fainting here. It is a picture of strength that comes from something beyond a shallow self confidence based on looks. This is a deep well of conviction.

She has a healing touch

Remember Princess Diana? She was one of the most beloved royals of all time specifically because of how she cared for the poor and less fortunate.  Truly beautiful women can heal with a word. Their touch brings life. True some are more gifted at it than others, mostly through practice, but I believe all women have this gift by design. As illustrations of the grace of God women, all women, carry within their very nature the ability to bring healing. It is almost magic.

Kids get this straight away. When they’re scared they go to dad, he’s dangerous! When they get hurt they go to mom, she’s the healer.

She uses her gift on behalf of others

In C.S. Lewis’  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Queen Lucy receives several gifts from father Christmas including the gift of a healing cordial that can heal any wound with but a single drop. Her sister, Queen Susan receives the gift of a magical horn that will summon aid when need is most dire. Lewis was tapping into these same characteristics, this idea that women bring healing and help to others.

On of the advantages of having grown up in the church is that I spent a lot of time around people from multiple generations. I have known, as I am sure many reading this post have known, older women whose lives were spent in ever deepening relationship with God, whose words brought healing to others regularly. These women draw us to them like the smell of cinnamon bread coming out of the oven. The very lives are a healing fragrance. Their physical appearance is superfluous!

By contrast we’ve all come across women who strive to maintain their fading physical beauty. To be fair some succeed and while they may be nice to look at, unless they’ve come to grips with this true sense of spiritual beauty, they’re not as much of a joy to be around.

As I said I’m either treading IN deep water or ON thin ice, depending on your choice of metaphor so…

Ladies, your thoughts, what does it mean to be truly beautiful?

Men and Women: Part 1 continued

In the film “Taken” Liam Neeson plays a former spy who finds himself in the middle of any parents worst nightmare when his estranged daughter is kidnapped.  When he calls his daughter’s cell phone and connects with the kidnappers he utters this line:

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

haHA YESSS!!!! Even just reading that gives me the chills. If you’ve not seen the movie I won’t spoil it for you other than to say Neeson’s character has MAD skills.

In the first installment of Men and Women: part 1 we looked at the assertion that men were created as illustrations of God’s Justice in the same way that women were created as illustrations of God’s grace. As the picture of God’s justice men are created to BE dangerous.

We like the dangerous movie heroes like Maximus, William Wallace, King Leonidas because they kick some serious butt on the bad guys but generally in life we don’t get to be dangerous in that way. In fact if we were we’d be in serious trouble. So how is a guy supposed to be dangerous if he doesn’t get to kill bad guys? Let me suggest three characteristics of a dangerous man.

He has conviction breeds confidence

We LOVE the quite confidence of a father with a “particular set of skills”.  There is a coolness factor about Leonidas who, outnumbered 3 to 1, goes out to personally negotiate with the enemy who may kill him because , as he tells his men, “…there’s no reason we can’t be civil is there?”.   Even Indiana Jones who tends to “make it up as he goes” shows this belief in his abilities that breeds confidence.

If a dangerous man is one who has a confidence that comes from conviction then think again about Paul’s words to the Philippians:

4:1 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Being dangerous starts with a conviction that this is true and that it means ALL things.

His cause is just

Deep down justice resonates with all of us. We all appeal to “fairness” in one way or another. Faced with a life that is FULL of unfairness the dangerous man looks to scripture to understand that there IS justice at work, he works to align himself with it, and to call out injustice when he sees it rather than allowing it to go unchallenged.

His fight is for others

The dangerous man starts with a confidence based on conviction. He seeks justice and to call out injustice and he does all this on behalf of others. The truly dangerous guy, the guy we want to emulate, isn’t out for himself, for personal gain, or for personal glory. The truly dangerous guy sticks up for the underdog, takes on the odds, and fights for others. That’s why were ok when a Wallace, or a Leonidas, or a Maximus dies at the end of the film because the goal, the thing they’re trying to provide for others, is accomplished.

You want to help your sons be dangerous men?

Teach them to study the word until they own the conviction of faith. Teach them to recognize justice and to be willing to call out injustice. Encourage them to stick up for those who are weaker or disadvantaged or burdened.

Be dangerous. It feeds on itself. It’s what you were made for.

What opportunities might you have this week to be truly dangerous?

Men and Women: part 1

Gladiator, Braveheart, 300: quintessential man movies.

Maximus, Wallace, Leonidas: guys who fought for justice, with honor, to the death.

So why do we like these movies when the good guy dies in the end? Guy movies that make us …cry? Ok, maybe it was just allergies but you get the idea.

Let’s face it men we like these guys because they are SERIOUSLY dangerous individuals and somewhere, perhaps buried so deep we’ve almost forgotten it, we know we were made to be dangerous too. We’d love to be one of the good guys fighting in a just cause against tough odds surrounded by our buddies, kickin’ BUTT!

Now ladies don’t leave just yet. This isn’t a testosterone filled rant. First of all because this is good information that can help you understand your man and second because it will be your turn in part 2. The question you ought to be asking is WHY? Why do men want to be dangerous?

The answer is simple: We were created to be.

Go back and think through the story of creation as it plays out in the book of Genesis. We’re told throughout the Bible that God’s reflection can be seen in His creation. That ALL creation displays his majesty, wonder, and creativity and  at the pinnacle of the creation story God, as the creme de la creme, He creates man and woman “in His own image”.

Allow me to suggest a way of understanding that phrase, “in His image”, that may not have occurred to you. What if by “in His image”, the scripture is referring to men and women as being reflections or representation of the characteristics of the creator rather than some vague reference to physical form? In this thinking through this passage I have really come to believe that was we’re being told here is that man is a representation of God’s Justice while woman is a picture of God’s Grace.

I know that is quite a leap in such a short paragraph but hang with the idea for a second. Take a deep breath, look around a little, consider it from a couple of sides. You’ll laugh when you realize that even the secular world gets it! Men are from where? Mars (god of war) and Women? They’re from Venus ( goddess of beauty and love).

Put Justice and Grace side by side and you get an interesting tension that we as humans understand intellectually but find ourselves constantly at odds with how it ought to play out. Sometimes we lean more heavily in one direction or the other but the opposite attraction always pulls us back towards center. Funny how THAT is even a picture of marriage!

But hang on, there was another character there in the serenity of the garden. Let’s call him the enemy. If you read his part of the dialogue with Eve you learn his M.O. He takes the truth and twists it. That is a constant theme whenever we encounter this dude in the Bible.

So knowing that, how might we see that play out in terms of how were supposed to function as men?

If we men are truly representations of God’s Justice we’re created to be dangerous, God’s justice is a terrible and mighty thing if you find yourself on the wrong side of it facing His wrath. Knowing that the enemy can’t deny our nature, he can only manage to twist the truth what does he do faced with dangerous men? He tempts and tricks us into being dangerous in the wrong ways, at the wrong times, and in the wrong places.

Look at many of the “problems” that plague men in this light:

  • Physical abuse: danger to their wives or kids
  • Substance abuse: danger to themselves
  • Sexual predation: danger to their victims
  • Sexual addiction: fantasy danger
  • Anger: unfocused danger

Adam’s failure in the Garden was not necessarily that he ate the apple but rather that he failed to be dangerous at precisely the time Eve needed him to step to the plate and be the dangerous guy he was created to be.

Now, I don’t want to give away the ending just yet. Fortunately this theme is creeping into a lot of the literature on what it means to be a man in a society that constantly tells men to be less dangerous in some good ways. But I will ask this:

If men are CREATED to be dangerous what are the right times, ways, and places to do what we were created to do?

Relational Currency

It was one of those November nights in Denver when the rain doesn’t quite want to mature into snow, the snow wants to relive its adolescence as water and the result is a soupy, mushy mess that blankets the streets like boba tea stirred in rice pudding.

I was sitting waiting for a flight out of DIA and becoming more concerned as boarding time approached and passed without any of us moving.  It wasn’t long before the inevitable announcement sent us all scrambling in the direction of “next best options”, some to the gate of the next flight out, some to the customer service counter and me, among others, to the Red Carpet Club.

I waited patiently a line to converse with the over-stressed somewhat aloof counter agent who has just heard the same story from the previous five people. When she heard it for the sixth time and had finished typing in my name she informed me, in a tone bordering on disdain, that I was number 99 on the priority list to get on the next flight. Puzzled, I asked if my frequent flyer number was on the record. With an almost imperceptible shake of her head she informed me that it was not and collected the pertinent information. It was barely a split second after her typing in the last key stroke that her eyes widened severely and her mouth formed a perfect “o” as though she were trying her best to imitate a bowling ball. “I’m so sorry Mr. Fletcher, you’re actually number three on the list. How about if I just confirm a seat for you right now?” Suddenly…I had currency.

Relational Currency doesn’t refer to money per se but to the mechanisms by which we “keep score” in relationships. As a mere passenger I had no currency, or little currency with United. But as a Premier Executive member I had plenty. The concept of relational currency is an interesting one if only from the standpoint of how it helps us keep track of how we’re doing in relationships. To help better elucidate the concept I want to share three truths about relational currency.

Relational Currency is partially inherent

Imagine you had wanted to have lunch with Steve Jobs the former CEO of Apple (RIP Steve, you will be missed) to talk about creative design. You or I probably wouldn’t have had a chance. But if Michael Eisner, former Disney CEO, had put in that call Steve would have no doubt found the time. Because these gentlemen played at the same level they had “inherent relational currency”, a level of respect earned because of external conditions. Dog lovers have inherent currency with each other. They have less inherent currency with cat lovers but may have some as pet lovers.  Professional athletes have inherent currency above that of college athletes.  Again, it is currency based on external attributes of circumstances.

Relational Currency is partially earned

If inherent currency opens doors for lunch opportunities then earned currency keeps them open. Earned currency is based on internal attributes and how we treat and interact with people. Bill Gates would probably take a phone call from Ted Turner to discuss charitable giving. Larry Ellison, Oracle CEO, probably wouldn’t take the same call. Why not? All three gentlemen are uber wealthy CEO’s. Doesn’t that indicate they should share inherent currency? Of course they do. But where Bill and Ted, pun intended, have shared excellent adventures in the realm of charitable giving Larry is not known to be equally motivated in that area and thus Ted’s earned currency is running at a slight deficit. Which leads to the third characteristic of relational currency:

Relational Currency works like money

By that I mean that it can be inherited, earned, spent, wasted, stocked up, or frittered away. Inherent currency is your starting account balance. That balance is different with different people. For example: as a former Div II college football player I have a fair amount of inherent currency with other DIV II players but significantly less with professional players and almost none with college basketball players. And none of any of that counts a lick with musicians.

Earned currency is where you start your funds management process growing, earning, building or burning up your inherent currency. Obviously, as with real money, the more I have in the bank to start with the easier it is to build my balance. Remember our lunch invite above? If I can’t even get the meeting I can’t build my balance. If I can get it and don’t communicate clearly or come off as an odd duck I waste the little “money”I had on the table  and in the words of Lord Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, “Had your chance, muffed it.”

Which leads to some interesting questions:

What are the audiences of people groups with whom you have the greatest inherent currency?

Are there any unique groups, near the top of some hierarchy, with which you have inherent currency?

The are interesting questions to answer because it helps you determine where you might have some of the best and most unique opportunities to build Disciples!

When does Discipleship begin?

If you’ve been following along at home you’ll know that I hold to the opinion that every Christian is responsible for making Disciples. Not converts to Christianity, not better Christians, but Disciples.

Again, the basic premise is that Disciple Making, in a spiritual sense, is the process of following God closely enough that you go out and create Disciples of you. In the same way John the baptist had Disciples of John and Gamaliel had Disciples of Gamaliel and Jesus had Disciples of Jesus. The twist is that we’re not called to point them ultimately to ourselves but to Christ.

So if that is the case when does Discipleship begin?

Most of the churches I have been associated with have some form of Discipleship class or curriculum. And, for most of those churches, the class or curriculum is designed to start AFTER someone has committed their lives to Christ. Hmmmm…I don’t think Jesus called the twelve AFTER they all we’re completely sold out to believing who He was, do you?

It seems to me there was a process of deepening relationship that happened all along the Discipleship journey.

Many scholars today recognize the commission in Matthew 28:19 to read: “As you’re going, make disciples of all nations…” seeming to indicate that this should not only be a part of your normal daily activities but something you should actively pursue. If that is the case then we shouldn’t expect to find the people we’re supposed to “make disciples of” sitting behind us in the pews at church.

This is where the Four Levels of Agreement starts to get me jazzed a bit. Remember, we’ve been looking at themas the process by which we deepen relationships. Level 1 is that mental click that happens when someone catches my attention.  Level 2 is my completed physical response to that mental moment. Level 3 is where we enter into some contractual responsibility based on expectations and promises. Level 4 is where we cross over into a committed rapport. Since we can walk through our daily routine marking out relational process with this tool we can ALSO use it to help determine which folks we ought to be actively engaging as potential Disciples.

Simplistically then I want to find people who are ready to enter into a Level 3 relationship, and who I desire to pursue that with as well, who may only be at a Level 1 in their understanding of spiritual matters! I have to finding people to Disciple in the work place, at the soccer field and at Starbucks…not in my small group! Ok, that was probably a bit hasty for those churches that invite new attenders to join a small group before they even know their names, but you get my drift.

Go back and read the Gospel account of the calling of the twelve, particularly in Mark. Everyone seems to be going about their business as relationships start to form. Where are relationships forming around YOUR daily life with folks that are not yet spiritually fully bought in?

Which of those relationships is ripe for Discipleship?

What do you think?

Is Disciple -Making really something we’re all called to do in this way? Is it really a PRE-conversion starting point?

Disciple Making (Sprirtual Version 1.1)

So by now some of you are wondering, why all this marketing talk with only one post having anything to do with the Great Commission? Well, let’s think for a minute about how Jesus chose His Disciples.

I really don’t think any of us would believe he picked 12 guys at random. Some of us might suggest he fell back on his power as fully God and used a predestined list but that would turn into a huge debate. Let’s look at an interesting little tidbit from Luke chapter 5 (from The Message):

 1-3Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd.

 4When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.”

 5-7Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch.

 8-10Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee’s sons, coworkers with Simon.

 10-11Jesus said to Simon, “There is nothing to fear. From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.” They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him.

First lets view this from Simon’s perspective. It would be tough to convince me that Simon knew nothing about Jesus. Imagine you’ve just pulled the boats up on shore from a long nights work and some stray preacher steps into your boat and asks you to take him out a bit. The fact that Simon agrees tells me he had already experienced a Level 1 agreement.  Interestingly enough he’s minding his own business when the opportunity resents itself to move through Level 2 and 3. In fact a short term contract ensues when he agrees to let Jesus teach from the boat. What is really cool is that he runs through all three levels AGAIN while Jesus is teaching:

  • Level 1: He hears what Jesus is saying and realizes this guy is more that just a teacher
  • Level 2: He moves to action and asks Jesus to leave him alone after the miracle catch.
  • Level 3 : He agrees to follow Jesus.

Now let’s look at is from Jesus perspective. We don’t have as much specific evidence in the text, and the chronology is a little difficult to piece together from the four Gospel narratives, but we can make some educated guesses.

Prior to the episode detailed in Luke 5 Jesus appears to have met Andrew, Simon’s brother. Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist and when John had proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God Andrew knew he’d found the one he was seeking. John’s Gospel,  in chapter 1 vs 40-42, seems to indicate that Simon and Jesus had met prior to the events of Luke 5:

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus. The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”). He immediately led him to Jesus.

   Jesus took one look up and said, “You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas” (or Peter, which means “Rock”).

Have you ever met someone and immediately knew you’d be friends? I’m not talking about “love at first sight” but that moment of, “I like this person.” I’ve had that happened a number of times in life and rarely been wrong. I think that was happening when Jesus met Simon. And so it began…

  • Level 1: Jesus meets Simon and gives him a new name
  • Level 2: He takes a step and asks Simon if he can “borrow the boat”
  • Level 3: He asks Simon to follow Him

While all of that may or may not be of interest let me ask you this:

If the Great Commission is really about each of us finding people to “Disciple” who are your Disciples? 

If you’re wrestling with this one let me ask:

How would you choose who to Disciple if you agreed with that interpretation?

More on this topic later in the week.

 

 

 

Relationship Building – The Four Levels of Agreement

Imagine for a moment that you’re trying to figure out how to build and grow a customer base. Or, if that’s not your thing, imagine you’re trying to figure out who you ought to mentor. Or, if you need something more basic, imagine you’re trying to sort out who to date. In any of these instances what you’re really trying to do is build relationships. Some of us are good at it, some of us stink at it, but all of us need to do it really to be successful in life.

Look again at those three scenarios. Beyond just building relationships what’s REALLY going on there is a desire to build ever deepening relationship and THAT takes work. It’s work that move people closer to each other, work that builds bonds.  In fact I want to suggest that people enter into deeper relationship based on increased levels of agreement.

Think about that statement for a second. You probably can’t name a single person with whom you have any depth of relationship AND with whom you completely disagree. It just doesn’t happen. (Except perhaps with some random members of your spouse’s extended family but that is a unique category.) There is always a “something” that draws us towards some people and away from others, towards one product and away from others, towards one service provider over another and that “something” is the level of agreement.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you and your close friends agree on everything, nor does it mean you like all the same things, nor does it hint at some sort of bizarre, cliquish, neo-cloned relational similitude. What it means is that the relationship itself is moving through four levels of agreement.

We’ll look at each of these in the days ahead but in overview the four levels are as follows:

  • Level  1Cognitive Resonance
  • Level  2Completed Response
  • Level  3Contractual Responsibility
  • Level  4Committed Rapport

So what in the world is Cognitive Resonance?

It’s the brain buzz, the ‘click’, the “hey, that looks interesting”. It’s that thing that happens when the server walks by with someone else’s food and you start madly scrambling for the menu to see if you can figure out what that was because “THAT looked goooood.”

It’s that moment in a conversation with someone you’ve just met where you start to pay closer attention because you were suddenly struck with the thought, “Hey, I think there could be more to this person.”

It’s that third recommendation of a restaurant that makes you think, “Yeah, we should check that place out.”

Years upon years ago I was working with a bunch of crazy Junior-high kids in San Diego and, as happened every summer, we took a bunch of them to camp. The first night of camp the guy who was serving as the “men’s dean” for the week introduced the women’s dean as the “cutest girl in camp”. Being a guy in my mid-twenties I obviously took a more than a passing interest in THAT pronouncement and thus invested a more than casual glance. While I had to objectively agree with his assessment I was, at the time, engaged to be married only a few months hence, and thus I took no other action. No, really, I promise, I didn’t do anything.  Until the next morning.

When the “cutest girl in camp” got up on stage to do her morning announcements and devotional with the kids I experienced a SIGNIFICANT moment of cognitive resonance.  (No, I did not think in those terms.)  What I did think was:

“Wow, she’s pretty sharp… and funny… and pretty good at what she does, and…man, I’m thinking that what I’m seeing here may answer a couple questions I’ve been asking… and…”

See where that’s going? Yeah, that’s where it went. We got married a year later and have been married for 21 years.  To be fair, and transparent, our relationship moved through all four levels of agreement over the course of that year but it all started with the moment of cognitive resonance.
Who are the people in your life today, probably in the category of acquaintances at the moment, with who you’ve had that twinkling of an ah-ha moment, that moment of cognitive resonance?

If you’re looking to build a customer base what are you doing to provide those moments of cognitive resonance for your prospects?

Have you had a personal experience where you can clearly identify the moment that cognitive resonance first took place?