DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

Kingdom's Here (Matthew 10:5-10)

Video clip from Highway Video Volume 9 - Evangelism

Jesus himself gave us a simple command to go into the world and spread his message of love. Somewhere along the way we called it evangelism, and the whole thing got ugly. Meet some of today's finest evangelists, reaping the harvest with a full court press.

You know, if you've hung around in church long enough, you've probably seen a few of the evangelism styles we just witnessed. Today, we're talking about evangelism. It's enough to make us want to end the sermon here and now and just go home. We know we're supposed to share something about our spiritual journey with others, but it's been so abused over the years, and we've accumulated so much guilt on the topic, that we barely want to even talk about the subject.

Let me give you an example. If you're on the Internet, you know what spam is. It's not the canned meat. It's unsolicited junk email selling you all kinds of products you don't want. For a lot of us, it outnumbers genuine email by a factor of ten to one. Somebody's come along and invented Spam evangelism. They send out mass emails to all these addresses, and if you try to respond to the email, you discover that someone's used a fake email address to send out their message.

Someone's said that evangelism is one topic that everyone can agree on, regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey. Nobody likes it. The easiest thing for me to do today would be to guilt you into doing some evangelism. Some of you would do it, too, for about a week or two. But I have too much pity on the poor people who would be victimized by our efforts, since I too have tried some of these short-term evangelistic bursts motivated by guilt. I think there's a better way.

If you've got a Bible, look with me at Matthew 10. Jesus has just looked around and recognized the spiritual needs around him. Matthew 9 closes with these words:

Jesus traveled through all the cities and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And wherever he went, he healed people of every sort of disease and illness. He felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn't know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, "The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send out more workers for his fields." (Matthew 9:35-38)

Jesus finished praying, and at the beginning of chapter 10, it's like he looks around and says, "These guys will do. Thanks for answering the prayer." He takes the group of followers and selects twelve. He doesn't select the theological experts of those who are far along on their spiritual journey. The only thing that these guys had going for them was they had spent some time with Jesus. That was enough for them to be sent out on his behalf.

I can only imagine what happened. Jesus said, "Okay, you, you, and you." They probably looked at one another and said, "Did Jesus just pick me?" And then Jesus gives them instructions on what to do.

The instructions should be good news for most of us.

Start Where You Are

Jesus said in Matthew 10:5-6, "Don't go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the people of Israel-God's lost sheep." This bothers me a little. Jesus spent most of his ministry among the Israelites, although not exclusively. There were probably a lot of reasons for telling his followers to start among Israel. Some were pragmatic. Some were more theological. Paul spoke of the Gospel as "saving everyone who believes-Jews first and also Gentiles" (Romans 1:16). Eugene Peterson paraphrases Jesus' instructions in The Message: "Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood."

Almost every time we're told to talk about Jesus, we're told to start right where we are. It's a lot easier in some ways to go to prefect strangers or to a different people group. It's a lot easier to go knock on a door or to speak to a stranger somewhere than to share part of our lives with those we see everyday, in the course of everyday life. It's much better to start right where we are, with the people we already know.

The Kingdom's Here

The heart of what I want to get at is in the next verse we're going to look at. It's a theme that emerges through Matthew, as we'll see in a minute. It's a very different message from what we usually think of giving when we talk about the good news.

For one thing, a lot of times we're taught to give a sales pitch. Ever been taught a canned approach to sharing the Gospel? You name it, we've tried it. We've got all kinds of packaged ways to talk about our spiritual journeys. The problem with all these approaches is that we then come across as nothing more than spiritual salespeople, as this video clip illustrates:

Scene from The Big Kahuna: It doesn't matter if you're selling Jesus, Buddha, or industrial lubricants. That doesn't make you a human being; that makes you a marketing rep. As soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it's not a conversation anymore, it's a pitch. And you're not a human being, you're a marketing rep.

I'm pretty sure I've taught this approach before: to look for openings in conversations, and to try to steer conversations in a certain direction. When we steer conversations, we ultimately become disloyal to what's taking place. We're always looking for that angle, that way to manipulate what's taking place. You know, I've never once steered a conversation so that my kids come up, but they come up all the time. Rather than manipulating conversations, it's better to be prepared to just respond when the opportunities arise, as they often do. There's such a spiritual hunger around that you don't have to manipulate the conversation to develop a sales pitch. You don't have to. You can just respond when spiritual conversations happen on their own.

We often try to deliver sales pitches, and sales pitches often lack sincerity. To make it worse, we're often selling the wrong product. We offer a truncated version of what Jesus is all about, usually centering on the afterlife. The afterlife is only a small part of what Jesus offers. It's not even the message that Jesus left us with. What's the true message?

In Matthew 3:2, John the Baptist gave this message: "The Kingdom of Heaven is near." When Jesus started preaching, this is what he said: "Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near." In Matthew 10:7, Jesus gave his followers their message: "The kingdom of heaven is near." Our message isn't primarily about the afterlife or what will happen when we die. That's only a small part of our message. Our message is about the Kingdom of God breaking into this world. It's the dawning of God's Kingdom. It's already, but it's not yet. It's started, and it's present, but it's not fully here. But it can be seen, it can be experienced, and it's near. It's here.

Our message isn't an abstract one. It's something that's real; it's something in which we're immersed. Jesus continues: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:7). The Kingdom is making changes here and now, in ways that can't be fully explained. We're to offer others only what we're already experiencing. We're to offer others something that we're already experiencing.

This is very different from a sales pitch. We're part of the healing stream of activity that is washing over the entire universe and will one day be complete. It's healing our souls, setting us free, making us whole. We only talk about what we're experiencing. If we talk about Jesus giving the abundant life, we had better taste some of that abundance. If we talk about the One who offers rest for weary souls, we better be living restfully too. Our message isn't about a future Kingdom; it's about a Kingdom that's breaking into this world even as we speak.

A pastor in Michigan suggests that we stop using the word evangelism because it has so much baggage. A better phrase may be spiritual conversations. You don't have to manipulate a conversation to have those. They come up all the time. When we have these spiritual conversations, we don't have to take it all the way to the closing pitch. We can share honestly and openly about what we're experiencing. That's a lot more authentic, a lot less canned, than the sales pitch.

Keep it Simple

Jesus continues: "Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep" (Matthew 10:9-10). The Message paraphrase puts it this way: "Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light."

The disciples already had everything they needed. They didn't need a lot of extra stuff. There were other times that other believers went out with more, so this isn't necessarily a pattern for all time. However, you can safely say: you don't need a lot of extras. You can go unencumbered, simply, low-budget. You can rely on God and others. You don't need fancy budgets or programs.

Leave it up to God

I have a friend who goes to a church that lights a candle every week that someone starts to follow Jesus. That's not bad, but if you ask me, there's room to celebrate even when someone doesn't make a spiritual decision. We ultimately don't have control over what happens when we talk about the Gospel, especially if we give up the sales pitch approach. If you read the rest of the chapter, you begin to realize that the results really aren't our business. On the contrary, Jesus says that the results are likely to be undesirable. Our message will be rejected. We'll be imprisoned and persecuted and hated, maybe even by our own families. We may even be killed. The results may be exactly the opposite of what we want, but the results aren't the issue. We simply leave that up to God.

I think we ought to celebrate when someone comes to God. But instead of just celebrating the results, which we don't control, why not also celebrate our part? Why not also measure and celebrate the spiritual conversations that take place, regardless of the results. We can leave the rest up to God.

The best spiritual conversations I've had are those that haven't been canned, and that haven't tried to push someone to an end result. I've been able to share the reality of what's happening in my life - the good, the bad.

Most of us fall into one of two extremes. On one end, we're pushy salespeople trying to close a deal. On the other end, we clam up and say nothing. How much better to talk with people we already know about the fact that the Kingdom is here, and it's changing our lives. Instead of manipulating conversations, we just prepare for when spiritual conversations take place. We talk about only what we're experiencing. And then we leave the results to God.

Next Steps

Some of the best actions we can take following a message like this have nothing to do directly with evangelism, at least at first glance. But a few, simple steps may be the best things that any of us can do to live this out in our lives.

First, get out there and do what Jesus did. Hang around with the type of people that Jesus did. Most of them weren't the church crowd. Some of us spend far too much time with those who believe what we do, and not enough time with what Leonard Sweet calls normal people. If you're invited out after work, take the invitation. Get to know your neighbors. Don't just befriend them to make the sales pitch. Get to know them with no agenda than being their friends.

Then, really begin to live what you say you're living. Your life is the message. I'm not talking about becoming a super-spiritual person. I'm talking about being authentic - drinking deeply from what Jesus offers so that what we talk about, we're actually living.

I'm also thinking we can just be prepared to contribute when conversations of a spiritual nature come up. Don't manipulate, don't steer. You don't need to. Just respond. That's what Jesus did. Spiritual conversations come up all the time. There is more openness to spirituality these days than in any time in recent memory. There's less of an interest in spiritual sales pitches, but more of an openness to talk about what we're really experiencing.

And then we can leave the rest up to God.

The Call

Let's open our Bibles to Romans 12. The Apostle Paul has just written eleven chapters of heavy theology. Paul never left his teaching at the theoretical level. In the passage we're about to read, he starts to get practical. How should what we believe affect the way we live (our praxis)? What we're about to talk about today is so important that it takes Paul only a couple of sentences to get to this topic. It's an absolutely essential part of how we're called to live.

Romans 12:3-8 says:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Everyone is tempted in one of two ways. Some of us are tempted to think too highly of ourselves, as if we're indispensable. There's nothing wrong with being tempted to think this way, but we need to be aware that it's our tendency, and we need to be purposeful about countering it.

Some of us have the opposite tendency. We think that we have nothing to contribute. Once again, there's nothing wrong with being tempted to undervalue our role, but we also need to be aware of this and take steps to counter this tendency. The goal is to think of ourselves with "sober judgment" - to neither exaggerate nor depreciate our own importance.

The best way to do this, according to Paul, is to stop seeing ourselves as isolated individuals. When we come together, we realize that we all bring something different, and everyone is needed. Paul uses the example of a human body, in which each part is necessary and useful.

Paul also mentions a word that is stunning. In verse 6, he says, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us." The word gifts is related to the word grace. Paul's talking about how the Spirit has graciously given every follower of Christ a grace-gift to be used to serve.

Let's think about how this works. It's a little harder in our context, but it would have been pretty easy to visualize back then. People didn't meet and sit in an audience in those days. They came together in a living room. You've seen this at work when you've met with others in that type of setting. All the things that Paul mentioned start to happen. You may notice that someone seems a bit down. You notice it, and make a note to pray for them. But someone else quietly takes them aside and asks how they're doing. Someone mentions that they are a bit tight this month. You make a note to pray for their finances, but someone else pulls out a checkbook and asks how much they need. As you talk about life, somebody just seems to have the right words to say that bring insight and clarity into the situation. Others take complicated Bible teachings and make them clear. Everyone brings something different, and everyone is needed.

You know what's amazing? When this happens, it's not because they've taken spiritual gift tests. They may have, but that's not why they're doing what they do. They just naturally gravitate to do what they do. What's more, they love it. They feel fulfilled and excited when they use what Paul calls grace-gifts. They'd do it for free. They'd even pay to do it sometimes. That's the picture of how we're supposed to function when we get together.

Today, I'd like to fast-forward to our setting and try to paint a picture of how this could look. I need to be honest and say that some of what I'm going to talk about is new for me. I want to paint three mental images of how this has looked in churches that are set up the way that we're set up. I obviously think that the third image that I'll paint is the one we should aim for. Let's paint these images and see.

Image One: Support the Pastor

A lot of us have been in churches in which our primary contribution is to show up and watch the show. Until a few years ago, this was what church was for most of us. The people are responsible to show up, to be attentive, and to listen to the pastor. Some stuff needs to happen through volunteers, but only primarily the stuff that the pastor doesn't want to do. A lot of times, the pastor doesn't want to be changing diapers in the nursery or stacking tables or counting money, so volunteers get to do that. Most of the significant stuff is supposed to happen through the pastor's ministry.

Ever been in a church like that? It shouldn't be surprising that there are a lot of churches that function this way. I think things have changed now, but for a while, this was the model that was taught in seminaries. Have you ever been in a church in which the pastor let you know if you were getting too involved? It was okay to do certain things, but there was a large area that was the pastor's turf, and you had better not cross that line.

I can't tell you how wrong this model of ministry is. It's not even close to the way we're supposed to function. It's a very truncated view of ministry that's overly pastor-focused. It's definitely an image that we want to avoid.

Image Two: Every Member Ministry

The second image should be a little more familiar to us. There have been a lot of books and studies in the past few decades on spiritual gifts: on every-member ministry, on discovering your spiritual gifts, on finding your passion, and on using your gifts within the body. This has been good. It's probably where we've been for the past few years. We haven't been perfect, but we've been trying to beat this drum for some time now.

This image is a lot better than the first. It states that every follower of Christ has been given a gift by the Spirit to be used to serve others. It states that every gift is necessary within the body. It gives ministry to others besides the pastor. It teaches the priesthood of all believers - that we're a kingdom of priests rather than just an audience that comes to hear the pastor. It's a huge improvement over the first image.

One of the problems of this model is that some people just don't fit. I've been learning recently that some people never sign up to be a part of a formal ministry, or if they do, they don't last. It's not that they're avoiding ministry. They are having people over to their houses. They're encouraging others sharing their faith. They just don't fit into the org chart. But you can adjust this model and make room for those who fit, as well as those who don't have a formal role.

I guess you may be wondering why we need a third image. What's wrong with this one? While this second image has got a lot right, it doesn't go far enough. More is needed. I'm going to talk about how we can take a quantum leap beyond this second image and try to live something even better, even more beautiful.

Image Three: Beyond the Institution

The way we do church today is different than in the very early days of the church. The church today is an institution, and institutions can be very demanding creatures. Did I say they can be? They are.

If we're not careful, we can turn every-member ministry into a focus on getting all of you to do the work that needs to get done around here. Now, we do need work done around here. We've got a bunch of kids who aren't being taught today, but they're being looked after, and their diapers are being changed. We still have stuff that needs to be done, but it's not just about looking after our needs and keeping the institution going. Yet so often, that's where our energy lies.

In a different setting - in a non-institutional setting - there were no buildings, no committees, no budgets, no programs as such, but every gift was still needed. If we're not careful, the buildings, committees, budgets and programs will so overwhelm us that it becomes all of our ministry. The stuff that needs to happen beyond all of these things - budgets, committees, programs - just won't happen.

It could look so different. Some stuff obviously needs to happen to facilitate doing what we do. But what if we radically changed the amount of energy we put into institutional maintenance and advancement, and instead redirected it in other areas? Here's what it might look like.

Who's our ultimate model for service? Jesus. Where did Christ serve? Jesus said, "Healthy people don't need a doctor-sick people do. I have come to call sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend my time with those who think they are already good enough" (Luke 5:31-32). Although there was no church, as such, when Jesus was around, he could have chosen to spend most of his time in the synagogue or with religious leaders. He didn't. He spent most of his time in the world, talking to people like a Samaritan woman at a well, with people who were poor, with those that needed healing. He spent time with his followers, but it was always in the context of serving others. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. We're his body now, and we're called to serve just as Jesus did while on earth.

In the book of Acts, we see the Gospel spreading. People like Paul went around and shared the news about Jesus wherever they went. But they didn't go with the purpose of planting churches. That was a byproduct. Churches were formed only as people came into the Kingdom. In other words, the goal wasn't to plant a church. That was the byproduct. The goal was that people entered the Kingdom.

I'd love for us to live this third image, in which our goal is not the maintenance of a church. I'd love for our focus to be living lives that are so abundant and missional that we have something to offer each other, and those who aren't yet part of the Kingdom. We now have the opportunity to live within a culture that doesn't even know the Gospel, to learn the language and the customs, and to live our lives in such a way that we make a compelling case for the Gospel. One person I know tells church leaders to ask this question: "What is it about your walk with God that the world can't live without?" Anyone who can't answer this question immediately, he says, should be fired on the spot, or (to take the gentle approach) rotated out of leadership at the end of the term. What is it about our life with God that is more focused on living and advancing the Kingdom rather than living and advancing an institution?

Ron Martoia puts it this way: that we see the primary purpose of our gathering as being prepared to be sent out, and that we see ministry as more about what happens out there than what happens in here.

This does mean a couple of things. It means that our focus changes to serving each other, and about loving beyond these walls. It also means planned abandonment - that we may have to give up some of what we're already doing. All of us have only 1440 minutes a day. We can't add another thing to our schedule. We're already way too busy. We may have to give up some of what we already do to live differently, to live to serve.

You don't need a spiritual gift discovery or formal ministry position to start living this way. You already know what you love to do. You read over the list in Romans 12, and some of you say, "Not me, not me, nope - I can't even stand people who have that gift. Yes, that's me." You are energized when you live this way. Some of us need to make a tough decision and get out of ministry areas in which we're not energized or drawn to serve. I'm not saying to quite today. At least come up with a plan of how to transition out of the ministry area within the next few months.

I'd like to suggest two changes today. First, that we change our scorecard. Instead of measuring success the old way - by things like ministry positions filled, people who attend events, money raised - why not measure things like conversations that have taken place on the streets and the coffee shops? The number of hours spent with those who aren't yet followers of Christ? The number of sacrificial acts that have taken place among us? How many ways that we as a church have chosen to love our community as God loves it? Maybe we measure the number of times we've had to clean the carpet because we've thrown the doors open to serve our community. Or the number of times ministry doesn't take place within the building, because we're out there living as salt and light.

I'd also like to suggest that we change our heroes. It's not about the pastor or about certain people who are prominent. It's about anyone who is living his calling, her giftedness. I read this the other day:

The greatest saint since Christ is unknown to humankind. If there is an omniscient God, then we will find out just who that saint is when we die. She may be that bag lady or he may be a Latino "illegal alien" father who works three jobs to feed his family.

I'd like to close by talking about the call. For a long time, pastors have talked about being called to the ministry. You almost get the sense that out of everyone who follows Christ, some are handpicked and called to ministry.

It's only been recently that I've realized that there's only one call. It's one we've all received. We've all been called to serve Christ with all of our lives. A pastor is no more called than a school teacher, a vice-principle, a doctor, a construction worker. It may or may not make sense to do any of these things at any given time, but it's not your calling. Your calling is to serve Christ with all of your lives. You've been given a grace-gift from God that will enable you to serve him, and to love doing it.

Let's pray that we will live this third image, and follow him and answer the call.

Invite people to respond to the call; pray for those who need to do some "planned abandonment"; pray that we would live and serve beyond institutional maintenance and advancement; prayer for protection for all those who have been called

Rethinking Spiritual Transformation

For the past few weeks, we've been looking at our life's purpose. We've talked about the fact that it's about God, not about us. We've looked at two important aspects of why we're here, and they both have to do with relationships. We were created for friendship with God, and we were also created to live life with others.

Today, we're going to look at another aspect of our purpose. God's purpose for our lives is to change us completely from the inside out. It's what we call spiritual growth or transformation. It's radical. He's not talking about making us better people. God's goal is to make us completely new creatures, and to give us completely new hearts. We're not talking incremental change. It's more like a revolution of the soul. Listen to some of the language of the Bible on this topic:

But oh, my dear children! I feel as if I am going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. (Galatians 4:19)

For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son. (Romans 8:29)

Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (Romans 12:2)

There are a lot of great words to describe this process. Some of the old ones include sanctification and spiritual growth. More recently, I've heard words like morph and spiritual transformation. God is restoring our souls from the inside out until Christ is fully developed within us.

Here's where I run into a problem. If we're completely honest with ourselves, we have to admit that this isn't always happening in our lives. We talk about what God is doing in our lives, but - let's be honest - it doesn't always match up with what we observe in our lives. We feel like we're growing sometimes, but a lot of the times we despair of ever getting better. We're not sure we'll ever achieve real wholeness.

Let's take a bigger picture. Sometimes we just need to be honest about things in life and in the church. There's more diet ice cream than ever before, but a lot of us still struggle with our weight. There's more time-saving devices than ever before and most of us still have less time than ever. Companies are still trying to cut their way into profitability, and it's still not working.

Let's be honest about the church as well. We are in the spiritual transformation business. It's why we exist. But without being judgmental, I think we can agree that we don't have a consistent track record of seeing lives completely transformed from the inside out. Some change, but many don't. Even worse, we're not surprised when some don't change. It's disturbing, and it's humbling.

Would you take your car to a mechanic who fixed some cars, but wasn't able to do anything about the rest? It's time to rethink our model of spiritual transformation.

The Old Model of Spiritual Transformation

In Matthew 5, Jesus spoke to the old way that we think about spiritual transformation. Jesus identified a group of people who practice the spiritual disciplines the most faithfully and still failed. This group read the Bible every day. They prayed a number of times every day. They knew God's Word the most. They were the spiritual all-stars of their day. Here's what Jesus said about spiritual transformation in light of this group, the Pharisees: "But I warn you-unless you obey God better than the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees do, you can't enter the Kingdom of Heaven at all!" (Matthew 5:20)

I believe that this was one of those moments in which some in the audience just threw up their hands in despair. Jesus said the minimum entrance standards into the Kingdom are higher than what the religious all-stars of the day were able to accomplish. I would think, "What's the use? How can I do better than them? It's hopeless."

Even worse, Jesus gave us a target for our spiritual transformation. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus said, "But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." How would you like me to get up and say, "I have a word from God today: Be perfect. Okay, we're dismissed." Not incredibly helpful.

Here's what I believe Jesus was saying: the old model of spiritual transformation doesn't work. Its goal is truncated. It doesn't do enough and it doesn't aim high enough. It's just not going to work.

We'd better look at the old model of spiritual growth carefully, because if it doesn't work, we shouldn't waste our time with that model. When I was a kid, I went to Sunday school and learned a song that said, "Read your Bible, pray every day, and you'll grow, grow, grow." This model states that spiritual transformation comes as we learn more about God and do certain things like pray and go to church. If this model worked, then the Pharisees would be our heroes. They did all the right things. They did all the right things, but they still didn't grow. We've got to try something different.

Dallas Willard puts it this way:

We must flatly say that one of the greatest contemporary barriers to meaningful spiritual formation in Christlikeness is overconfidence in the spiritual efficacy of "regular church services," of whatever kind they may be. Though they are vital, they are not enough. It is that simple. (Renovation of the Heart)

What Willard says about church services is true also of a lot of other things we've tried: reading the Bible, praying, and all the spiritual disciplines. They're necessary, but not enough. We need something more.

A New Starting Point

It all starts with a new starting point. We've told people that they can grow if they give their lives to Jesus Christ, or accept him as their personal Savior. It should bother us that Jesus never used these words or made these demands. He did ask something else, and it's the minimum standard - the starting point - for all who want to follow him:

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. (Luke 9:23-34)

This isn't the super-elite version of following Jesus. This is the baseline. You can't begin to grow unless this is what's happening in life. One of the reasons why we haven't grown sometimes is that we think following Jesus is about a decision we made one day after church or at a crusade. Jesus says that following him isn't a one-time commitment. It's the direction of one's life on a daily basis. Every day, we pick up our cross again. We choose to die to ourselves. This is where it all starts.

I'm suggesting that one of the reasons we don't grow is because we haven't arrived at the place of giving up our lives for Christ so we can find true life. You can do all the Bible reading and praying you want, and you can attend two or three church services a week, and it won't do any good until we start at this point of giving our lives over to him.

Three Shifts

It's humbling for me to admit that I don't know how we grow. I know it starts with complete surrender, but beyond that, I can't explain the process of spiritual growth. I guess that's okay, because I can't tell you how my kids grow either, but they still seem to. I'm probably better at explaining how to provide a climate that fosters growth. It's a divine work, one that we can't explain. We do, however, play a role in the process.

I'd like to suggest that we make three shifts in our thinking about how to grow. First, I want to suggest that we move from learning to knowing. So much of our growth strategy is built around knowing the right knowledge about God and about Jesus. It's built on the assumption that knowledge leads to growth. I'd like to challenge that assumption. Knowledge is important, but it's not enough. Learning the Bible is important, because it is the living and powerful Word of God. But it's not enough to just learn it. Satan knows it so well he could probably beat all of us at a Bible trivia contest. Learning isn't enough.

I'm going to pick on Ed for a minute. I could start a 10-week series on Ed next week. We could talk about his life's story, about all the events that have taken place in his life. We could systematize his teachings. We could do a sermon on the attributes of Ed. I could even ask his wife to come and guest lecture on what it's like to know Ed. But none of that learning about Ed would compare to ten minutes of actually talking to Ed, getting to know him. It's one thing to learn about Ed. It's another thing to know him and experience him.

We can approach the Bible as a source of learning about God, or we can ask God to help us to meet him through his Word. Erwin McManus suggests that we view the Bible not as an encyclopedia of God but as a portal to his presence. It's much better to know God than to learn about him.

I'd also like to suggest that we shift our growth efforts from the classroom to the living room. Jesus taught this way! He gave the odd lecture, but most of his teaching took place as he and his followers lived together. They would discuss current events, and Jesus would bring spiritual insight into those events. They would ask questions, and Jesus would use these questions as teaching opportunities. Jesus only had three years to transform his disciples into people who could turn the world upside down, and this was his strategy. His focus wasn't the classroom but everyday life.

I suppose that a lot of us have grown through sermons and Bible lessons. But I know that I've grown most not as I've sat and absorbed what someone else is teaching. I've grown the most when I've driven around in a friend's old Honda Civic discussing the Bible and asking questions. This isn't a new idea, either. Paul told Titus in Titus 2 to teach the men in everyday life, and to arrange for the older women to share their lives and insights with the younger women. We are built to be relational, and we grow best as we grow together. It's not supposed to be a solitary pursuit or about learning in the classroom. It's about growing as we live life together.

One more shift: I would suggest that we move from studying to apprenticing. A student goes to school. An apprentice learns on the job from the master. He or she watches what the expert does, and tries to do the same.

We are disciples, and a disciple is the same as an apprentice. How do we know how to grow? By watching to see what Jesus did. It's more than What Would Jesus Do? because nobody is capable of doing what Jesus did. It's looking at his life to see what allowed Jesus to do the things that he did. The disciples saw Jesus pray, so they asked him to teach them how to pray. It's about observing how Jesus handled situations, how he withdrew to receive direction from the Father, how he paused in certain circumstances before answering. Jesus said, "Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:29).

We've put the emphasis in the wrong place for so long. It's not about what you're doing. It's about who you're becoming. It's not even about obedience - that's only the byproduct. It's about God transforming us into completely new people, with new hearts and new desires.

I don't know how you grow. It sure won't be through just listening to more sermons. It's not through techniques. I am bothered that we are supposed to be a center of spiritual transformation, but many of the methods we've been trying just don't work.

I don't know how to make you grow, but I think I may know a few things that will make this a good environment for growth. If you're sick of not growing, it begins with the starting point of living everyday as a dying person who follows Jesus. It's not a one-time thing. It continues as we experience God rather than just learn about him, and as we live and grow with each other.

Let's pray that God would grow us this way. Let's pray that Richview would be a church that provides a good environment for growth.

Rediscovering Fellowship

We're in the middle of this forty days of purpose series. A couple of weeks ago, we looked at "Why on earth am I here?" We're not here for our own pleasure or our own purpose. It's not about us. Our lives are about following Jesus, about being part of what he's doing. Last week, we looked at worship - that God has created us to worship him, not just when we get together, but 24/7. We're here to walk with him, to be friends with him, throughout all of life.

Today, we're going to look at another dimension of why we're here. I'm amazed at how relational all of this is. We've talked so far about friendship with God, and today we're talking about our relationships with each other. It's a good reminder that relationships are at the core of who we are.

Last year, I received an email telling me that I needed to get over to England because my father wasn't well. Within 24 hours, I was on a plane and on my way. I arrived, and I didn't know what to expect. A few days later, my brother arrived as well. I thought that he came for the same reason I did: to look after my Dad. I was wrong, though. He knew Dad would be okay, because I was there. He came to look after me.

It's moments like those that make me realize the value of family. You may have experienced those times that it's really cost someone to stand by you, but they have. Today, I want to look back at early records of the church, because I think we've lost something today. I'm not going to give you all the how-to steps as much as create an image. Perhaps when we see this image, we'll realize what we're missing and begin to long for the same dynamic right here.

I should add that this, sadly, is a relatively new discovery for me. I've had a highly individualistic view of my walk with God for a long time. It's only recently that I've discovered something much better, much richer.

In one of the most significant talks that Jesus gave to his followers, Jesus said, "So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples" (John 13:34-35). I would have looked around and said, "You expect me to love these guys?" Jesus gave us the defining mark of what it looks like to follow him. Those who follow him love one another. Our defining mark isn't our theology, whether we attend church, or a whole lot of other things. We're supposed to be known by how much we love one another.

Jesus repeated himself a short while later. "I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you" (John 15:12). Not only does Jesus tell us what to do ("love each other"), he gives us a standard ("in the same way that I have loved you"). This is clearly above what's possible for us to do by ourselves, but somehow this is supposed to be what following Jesus is all about.

I would be tempted to think that Jesus was engaged in wishful thinking here, and that this type of love could never happen among a group of people without some sort of miracle taking place. But strangely, this is what happened. For the first few hundred years of the church's life, his followers were known by their relationships with each other.

The strange thing is that it seemed to happen almost by itself, right from the start. In Acts 2, three thousand people began to follow Jesus. They were all in spiritual diapers. They had just started their spiritual journey, following Jesus. Yet here's how they're described, right from the start:

They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord's Supper and in prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity-all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

"Devoted themselves to...fellowship" - This is about more than a loose concept. It's really about sharing life together. Just as Jesus and his followers did everything together, the early followers ate together, lived together. They didn't just meet for public worship and leave. They shared their lives with one another.

It's easy to be devoted to others in theory. When generosity characterizes a relationship, that's when you know real commitment is present. These baby followers of Jesus were so committed to one another that they shared their stuff with one another. They were living out what John the Baptist had said earlier: ""If you have two coats, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry" (Luke 3:11). In today's terms, if somebody realized that they had two cars, and someone else had no transportation but needed some, then they have away one of their cars. If you had an empty room and somebody needed a place to stay, you'd give them a room because you're so committed to them.

This is pretty significant, but it's not the high watermark. That comes a few chapters later. In Acts 2, people sold whatever they have and gave it to those who had need. A couple of chapters later, we see what they were willing to sell. Acts 4:32-35 says:

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

Talk about caring for one another. I'd give away my coat to help someone. Big deal. What about selling a house because someone else has a need?

History can look so sterile sometimes. Don't forget that these weren't mature Christians or extreme examples. This was life. This is what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

One of the greatest challenges early Christ-followers faced was how to mix Jews and Gentiles together. Jews had always thought of themselves as God's chosen people. Now, God was doing something new, and great numbers of Gentiles were staring to enter the church as well. Aren't you glad? But then this guy over here brings bacon to the church dinner, and you've got a problem. A big problem. This could have destroyed the entire movement, but it didn't. They were so committed to one another that they worked through this issue, and overcame old prejudices because of their commitment to fellowship.

Then there were the other social barriers. When the church got together, slaves came to worship with their masters. Poor came to worship and eat with the rich. Men came to worship with women, at a time in which a woman's status was nothing in society. Society treated women as second-class, but that didn't happen within the church. All these social and cultural barriers were broken. The apostle Paul described it this way: "There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians-you are one in Christ Jesus." Talk about revolutionary!

The communion celebration was even called by a name most of us wouldn't recognize anymore. It was called a Love Feast. It was more than a brief service. It was a meal, set in the context of love.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to paint an ideal picture of the early church, or pretend that they got it all right. Far from it. But we can safely conclude that the texture of their relationships was different and deeper than most of us have experienced in church life today, not just in Bible times, but in early church history. It makes me think that something else may be possible today.

Do you know what one of the early charges against the church was? "See, how they love one another!" That wasn't said from within the church. It was said by those who weren't part of the church. Some of the early charges against the church included things like gross immorality, antifamily behavior, and poverty. Why? They were accused of gross immorality because they called each other "brother" and "sister" and talked about loving one another. You can see how that might be misunderstood. They were accused of being antifamily because their spiritual family became more important than their physical family, and their loyalty switched from family to Christ. They were accused of poverty not just because they were poor - and many of them were - but because even when they had wealth, they gave it away to others in need.

I love this description, from the second or third century, about why the church must be eradicated:

This conspiracy must be absolutely eradicated and accursed. They recognize each other by secret marks and signs, and they love one another almost before they become acquainted [Note: don't you love that?]. Everywhere they mingle together in a kind of religion of lust, indiscriminately calling each other brothers and sisters, with the result that ordinary debauchery, by means of a sacred name, is converted into incest. Thus their vain and demented superstition glories in its crimes.

This dynamic was so strong that some early creeds that confessed the faith of the church included these words: "I believe in the communion of saints." That's what we're talking about. It's the dynamic that was unmistakable in those days, but is missing in so much of what we've come to know as the church today.

I wish I could give five easy steps to living this out, but I can't. It does give me hope that this seemed to happen naturally in the early days as a result of the change that Jesus brought into his followers' lives. I'm hoping that just by describing this as a possibility, we might begin to move in this direction.

Let me ask you some questions. How much of your walk with God could be described as "a common life?" Maybe part of the problem is that a lot of us are trying to follow God by ourselves, apart from attending a church service once a week. We've bought into the individualistic worldview of our culture, which is completely wrong. How much of your life is lived in the context of a shared life with other believers?

What social/generational/cultural barriers have you broken? My grandfather lived in South Africa, and for a time, he held views that could probably be called racist. When he moved to Canada, he started to attend a very culturally diverse church. One of my fondest memories of my grandfather is that of him hugging and loving people from other nationalities. Jesus turns those who were formerly racists into brothers and sisters in the same family.

What radical acts of generosity have revealed your commitment to others? It's easy to talk about fellowship and loving one another. What have you sacrificed for the sake of others in your spiritual family?

If your life fell apart tonight, whom would you call? Who would call you? Part of being in the same spiritual family is having others with you who are with you no matter what you go through. You could call them day or night, and they'd be there. If you went off and did something stupid, they would chase you. They wouldn't let you away with it. But they wouldn't just enter your life when you're in trouble. They're part of your life, when things are going well and when they're not.

You may not have answers to these questions, because a lot of us have never even thought that this was possible. This may be frustrating for you because it's what you want, and you don't have it now. While I think we can do some things structurally to make this possible, I believe a lot of this can happen just as we begin to desire it, as we pray for it, and as we take some risks to build this kind of relationship with others.

I guess the programmatic answer would be small groups. I'm all for small groups, but they're not a magic bullet. This can happen in small groups, but it can also happen apart from an official program. It can happen in a coffee shop or a living room or on the telephone throughout the week without a program. If you want this, you can not only pray and desire it, you can also take the initiative and begin to live this way yourself.

A couple of months ago, I received an invitation to join a small group, or what I prefer to call a house church. I reacted the same way that a lot of you would. This is really sad, but an ideal night for me is a night at home. I'm out far too much. I don't really need another night out, and I'm not really looking for more friends. I have enough, and I'm having a hard enough time keeping up with the ones I already have. But how could I turn it down? So I accepted. Listen to what I wrote down when I got home from my first night there:

I really don't need another night out, but I couldn't really turn down an invitation to join a small group (how I hate that term - so programmatic), or should I say home church. I don't believe in small groups as a program, but I do think that a lot of what the church has to do can't happen on a Sunday morning. It has to happen in a more intimate setting.

My small group experience has been bad - really bad - in the past. I'm a terrible small group leader. It's a completely different skill set than is required from the Sunday morning pastor type. Still, as Rob Bell asked last week, "Are you smoking what you're selling?" I talk about the value of sitting in circles rather than rows. I couldn't really turn down the invitation to join this home church.

I arrived, and soon recognized I was in a one-another experience. I was not the expert or the Bible answer man (thank God). I did not have to participate in any discussions on directional issues or strategic shifts. I sat beside my wife and was just who I am, hungry for community, hungry for something more with one another than we've made church out to be.

No offerings. No budgets. No strategy. No hierarchy. Just each other. And it was great.

This is what I want for you as well, that you discover what we could be: a group so committed to one another that we call each other brother and sister before we hardly know each other, and mean it; that we adopt one another's problems as our own and meet needs with our own resources; that we're just with one another, to the extent that the world says of us, "See, how they love one another."

Pipedream? Maybe compared to what we're experiencing now. But it's happened before, and we're sure going to try.

God-Walkers (Worship)

If you have a Bible here, please open it to Genesis 5, which should be in the first few pages of your Bible. We're going to be flipping all over today, but let's start here.

Last week we started looking at our life's purpose. We've been asking why we're here, and why we exist. Have you ever gone out to the store to get something and forgotten what you're there for? I've gone to Costco for milk and returned home with everything but the milk. It's possible to get to the end of our lives and have accomplished everything but the purpose for which God has put us here. I can't think of many things that are more important than understanding our purpose.

Here's where it gets confusing for most of us. It's easy to think that our purpose is about us, but it's not. God created so much for our enjoyment. Today, you can go out for lunch and experience tastes that you've never experienced before. You could drive to places that are so beautiful that it would take your breath away. There is so much that's good in this life that we can experience that it's natural to start to think that it's all for us, and that our happiness and enjoyment is the purpose of our lives. But that's not our purpose at all. It's a byproduct, but it's not the goal.

Our purpose isn't about us. It's about God. Revelation 4:11 says, ""You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created." You were created to give God pleasure. You can measure everything up in your life against this purpose. It's why we're here - not for our pleasure, but for God's.

Rick Warren calls giving God pleasure worship. The problem with worship is that we usually think of worship as an activity that happens in a worship service. That's one type of worship, but worship is far more than that. Worship is a 7/24/365 thing. It's about all of our lives.

Wouldn't you agree it's easy to worship God in church? Relatively easy. I know stuff gets in the way, but it's a lot easier here than in other circumstances. I did some laundry yesterday. I put one of these 10 liter jugs on top of the washer. Sometime, I forget when, I heard this big thump noise, but I couldn't find what it was. I discovered what it was this morning while I was getting ready for church. It was the giant container of liquid laundry soap, which was now all over the floor. Do you ever have one of those mornings? Do you ever have one of those lives? I didn't want to get up. Two or three other things went wrong. I'm standing barefoot in laundry soap and I'm late for church.

The question isn't how to worship God when I'm in church. How do I worship God when I'm standing in laundry soap and late for church? How do you worship God when you're knee deep in worse? How do you worship God when you work for the boss from Hades? When your kids are driving you crazy? How do you worship God with all of your life?

Here's where Genesis 5 comes in. It's one of those passages that we usually skim over. Does anyone else here sometimes quickly skim the genealogies in the Bible? It's tempting to do so, but this one contains something out of the ordinary. You're reading along, and you notice a pattern. Someone lived, had a child, lived some more and died. It's the same all over again. Someone else lived, had a child, lived some more, and then died. Then, all of a sudden, the pattern breaks down in verses 21 to 24:

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. (NIV)

Everyone lived. Enoch lived, but he lived differently: he walked with God. This is meant to stick out to us. "So and so lived, and then he died. Then someone else came and lived, and then he died. But Enoch walked with God, and then he never died. God just took him away."

I don't know how this happened. Enoch was just one of two people in the Bible who never died. I don't know how this happened. Maybe he just disappeared overnight and nobody ever knew what happened to him. Maybe it happened so that everyone knew what had taken place. His life was different, and then God took him away.

It's as if the author is telling us that we have a choice in life. We can either live, or we can walk with God. Those are our two choices.

What does this "walking with God" term mean? I don't think it means that Enoch was especially pious. There are lots of pious people in the Bible, and one almost gets the impression that God didn't like a lot of them. God seems to be drawn to people you wouldn't call pious. Colorful, action-oriented, rough around the edges, yes. But you probably wouldn't call most of them pious.

The term "walking with God" isn't about piety. It's about relationship. It's more the idea of a friendship - of an intimate, supernatural friendship with God. It's the highest accolade you could pay to a person, that they walked with God.

Just a few verses later, you see the same term used of Noah. Genesis 6:9 says, "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God." Noah, too, walked with God, and he was used to save the entire world. You get the picture: people who walk with God are delivered.

You don't see the same phrase used again for a long time. It's used of Levi, representing the priestly tribe the Levites, in Malachi 2:6: "True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin" (NIV).

Then, in Hebrews, we find Enoch's name once again. We know next to nothing about Enoch, except what we read in Genesis. Yet when the author of Hebrews is looking for examples of how to live a life of faith, one of the first people he picks is Enoch:

It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying-"suddenly he disappeared because God took him." But before he was taken up, he was approved as pleasing to God. So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. (Hebrews 11:5-6)

So there you have it. Here's how to live a life that pleases God. It's not about piety. It's not about a lot of other things. It's about our relationship with God. It's about having an intimate friendship with him. It's not about what we do on Sundays. It's about the friendship what we maintain over the course of our entire lives.

We get so focused on techniques. This past week, I went to the local bookstore to the relationships section. I was going to buy some of the books to illustrate today, but I wasn't sure I should. What if somebody saw me buy a book on finding a husband when you're 35 or older? There were all kinds of books on the techniques of relationship building.

Are techniques important to relationships? It depends on how socially inept you are. I suppose some techniques are helpful. It's important to learn how to have a conversation, how to let the other person speak, and how to wear deodorant. But once you've got the basics down, relationships aren't at all about techniques. Relationships are about the heart.

If I went home and talked to my wife from a cue card or from some prompts written on my hand, I can tell you that things wouldn't go very well. It's far better to connect at the level of the heart. Relationships ultimately aren't about techniques.

It's almost as if God was saying, "If you want to worship me - worship me with your entire life, not just in the worship service, you've got to stop focusing on techniques. Instead, you've got to walk with me." We get so focused on techniques of worship, of relating to God, that we forget that the techniques aren't the issue.

God himself gets sick of the techniques. He says in Isaiah 1:

I am sick of your sacrifices," says the LORD. "Don't bring me any more burnt offerings! I don't want the fat from your rams or other animals. I don't want to see the blood from your offerings of bulls and rams and goats. Why do you keep parading through my courts with your worthless sacrifices? The incense you bring me is a stench in my nostrils! Your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath day, and your special days for fasting-even your most pious meetings-are all sinful and false. I want nothing more to do with them. I hate all your festivals and sacrifices. I cannot stand the sight of them! From now on, when you lift up your hands in prayer, I will refuse to look. Even though you offer many prayers, I will not listen. For your hands are covered with the blood of your innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Let me no longer see your evil deeds. Give up your wicked ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows. (Isaiah 1:11-17)

The only people that Jesus really couldn't stand were actually the masters of religious technique. They never missed the worship services. They were always praying and reading the Scriptures. They mastered all the techniques, but Jesus couldn't stand them. They didn't love God and they certainly didn't love Jesus.

The techniques aren't all bad. You can pick up the techniques again if they will help in developing a relationship, but the techniques are never the point. They're good if they help. They should be discarded if they get in the way.

This is what worship has always been about. It's not a new thing. The most well-known passage of the Scriptures in the first five books of the Bible - five books that are pretty technique-heavy - is one that talks about this very thing. It is the passage that everyone would have learned and been able to recite off by heart. It's called the Shema, and it's found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again. Tie them to your hands as a reminder, and wear them on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Did you catch that? It's about loving God, with all of us. When it talks about heart, soul, and strength, it's not dividing us up as if it's possible to love God with one or two of the three. It's saying, "Love God with your entire being." Even the commands are to be written on the heart. It's about a relationship. It's about loving God with our being, of walking with him.

When Jesus was asked the most important commandment, he referred back to this one. It's the heart of what it means to pursue God. Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment" (Matthew 22:37).

How does this work in everyday life? Let me give you too examples. One of the things I love about the early church is that they were as messed up as we are. It gives me hope. One of the issues they faced was what to do with meat that was offered to idols. It's hard to relate this, so let's try to picture what it would be like.

Say that on your way out of church today, you were really hungry, and someone was selling rotisserie chicken right outside for half the price that you would normally pay. You're about to walk by, but it smells so good, so you stop and ask, "Why is your chicken so cheap?" It turns out that it's cheap because it's used chicken. But not used in the normal sense. It's being sold by this religious group that offered it to their god that morning, but evidently their god wasn't hungry and there's all this leftover chicken.

Some of you would have no problem saying, "What a bargain! I don't really care what god it was offered to. The other gods aren't real, and besides, I'm hungry." Others of you would really struggle with the morality of buying that chicken. What should we do?

Paul says a lot on the issue, but one of his bottom-line principles was this one: "Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). You can use this as a guiding principle in every decision of life. Will watching this TV show bring glory to God? Some of them will, because God is glorified when we look after ourselves and unwind. There are some shows that are impossible to watch while bringing glory to God. Some help the relationship. Others get in the way.

Every decision that we face, even unspiritual decisions like what to eat, drink, and wear, can be guided by this principle. All of life, 7/24, is about bringing glory to God. It's about walking with him as my friend. It's about loving him with all of my life.

Paul put it this way, in Romans 12:1 (Message paraphrase): "Take your everyday, ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering." It's about all of our lives. Rick Warren put it this way: "That is what real worship is about - falling in love with Jesus."

I wish I could give you techniques that would help do this. Ultimately, it's not about feelings or about willing ourselves into this kind of love. About the best thing I can recommend is that we come to God and say, "I want to love you with this kind of love. Help me to do so." God has promised us his Spirit, and the Spirit can make God-lovers out of us. If we ask God to do this, I believe he will.

At the end of our lives, it can be said that you lived. Or, it can be said that you walked with God. Not that you were perfect. Not that you were pious. But that you were friends with God, and you walked with him. Those who walk with God are delivered. Unlike Enoch, they may die in this life. But Jesus says that God-walkers will have eternal life.