Surrounded, Surrendered

"I will go before you, and come behind. I will come alongside you. I will surround you with my love. I will be near to you."

This, He said.

And I felt His presence surrounding me. Peace and comfort.

And I was glad.

Some time later, I was frustrated by a lack of options. I was hemmed in on all sides, unable to go in a direction of my own choosing. It was practically impossible.

Then I heard Him.

"I will go before you, and come behind. I will come alongside you. I will surround you with my love. I will be near to you."

And I realized that to Him, nearness implies dependence. When He is close, nothing else can be that close.

When you are surrounded - surrender.

When He surrounds you - He will guide your steps.

It is not always like this. Sometimes He leads us to a spacious place, where it is the number of options and His open permissiveness that astound us - even challenge us to accept the roominess of His pleasure.

But when He is close, our options are limited.

To Him.

If He does not move, we cannot move. If He does not act, we cannot have. If He does not speak, we cannot hear.

When He surrounds, surrender.

Be at peace.

Social Angst

Where are my blind spots?

God, why haven't you helped me find and fix these?

Aren't you here to save me from myself?

[Choose your own adventure... recount your latest mistake here...]

Which is a stronger testimony? To live perfectly, or to make mistakes and live transparently?

His purpose is not to prevent my mistakes, but to redeem them.

It is the study and application of wisdom that helps me to avoid mistakes.

It is the study and application of grace that helps me keep relationships in spite of mistakes.

There is no end to His wisdom and grace.

To live "perfectly" with others is to live so dynamically with Him that no one can find the end of mine - because I appropriate His in each moment.

Unforgiveness blocks this flow, forgiving myself and others allows me to access Him in every circumstance.

"The Holy, the True - David's key1 in His hand, opening doors no one can lock,
locking doors no one can open - speaks:

I see what you've done. Now see what I've done. I've opened a door before you that no one can slam shut. You don't have much strength, I know that; you used what you had to keep my Word. You didn't deny me when times were rough.

Because you kept my Word in passionate patience, I'll keep you safe in the time of testing that will be here soon, and all over the earth, every man, woman, and child put to the test.

I'm on my way; I'll be there soon. Keep a tight grip2 on what you have so no one distracts you and steals your crown. I'll make each conquerer a pillar in the sanctuary of my God, a permanent position of honor. Then I'll write names on you3, the pillars: the Name of my God, the Name of God's City - the new Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven - and my new Name."

Selected from Revelation 3, The Message

1. What is David's key? I wonder if it is the act of worship from a pure and transparent that allowed David to come and go freely in the temple, to eat the shewbread without condemnation. David was persistently and expensively in constant communion with the Almighty, and this afforded him the privileges of familiarity and proximity.

2. "...tight grip..." We cannot abrogate our personal spiritual disciplines. No blame or excuse will stand.

3. "...I'll write names on you..." What God writes cannot be erased - your eternal identity is in His handwriting.

Community Sustenance

Father: "How often do you eat?"

Me: "Once a week, usually on Sundays. That doesn't count all the times I just sit and stare at my food (daily Scripture reading)."

I had asked Him why I felt so weak and inconsistent - like a spiritual hypoglycemic...

Father: "Makes sense."

Me: "What?"

Father: "That you feel weak... You're not eating right."

Me: "Oh."

Father: "Manna only lasted a few hours, but it came every day."

Me: "So, I should eat every day?"

Father: "If you want to be strong."

Me: thinking...

Father: "Jesus made a big deal about food. Think about it."

Me: thinking... remembering...

Food was a big deal in John 21...

Jesus: "Guys, do you have any food?"

Disciples: "No."

Jesus was appearing to them after His resurrection, and it was STILL about food. They didn't get it. Still.

Jesus: "Peter, do you love me?"

Peter: "Yes."

Jesus: "Feed my sheep."

Food was a big deal in John 6:32-35...

Jesus: "I am the Bread of Life, sent by God."

Food was a big deal in Hebrews 5:12-14...

Paul: "Milk or meat? Grow up..."

Food was a big deal in Acts 2:42-47...

Early Church: "Join us - make a commitment to share, to each other's sustenance. Daily means you need to let your hair down around each other, no hair products, no need to clean the house perfectly before you fellowship."

Food was a big deal in Luke 22:14-20...

Jesus: "Communion is about food and fellowship - spiritual food, and spiritual fellowship. Do this often, and remember my food and my fellowship."

Question 1: How will I feed myself well?

Question 2: How will we feed each other well?

Consuming vs. Creating Church

"Is there anyone here who has seen Jesus?"

"Can you lead me to Him? I need Him today..."

The most shocking indictment brought against the Church today is that so few of us can answer these questions.

It is not our right to bring such an indictment. We are neither judge nor jury - but rather a community already exhonerated of every sin.

Yet the indictment stands, as Jesus will one day declare to some of us, "Depart from me, for I have never known you." (Matthew 25)

My heart breaks over the Western post-modern church. We are guilty of synchrotism: our culture is addicted to entertainment and we have followed suit, aligning our major resources to recruit and entertain consumers, rather than trusting new leaders. Like Ephesus in Revelations 2, we have lost our first love.

My concern starts and ends with me. How would I answer these questions? Have I seen Jesus? Has He ownership - such capture - of me that I could, without hesitation or blush, lead others right into the presence of the resurrected Christ - that they can experience His resurrecting power?

I'm not into movements. This is neither message nor platform. This is the painful cry from a beautiful Bride, self-trapped by accepting her addictive environment, convinced that she's lost the trust and respect of her Bridegroom.

It is the treason of distance vs. the transparency of intimacy.

The gates of Hell will not prevail against the spotless Bride of the Church. Meanwhile, her affection is the balance on which hang her own life and health.

The greatest service I will ever do for those around me is to stay near the heart of God.

Would I rather be entertained, or led to the feet of the risen King of Love?

Am I consuming, or creating, the Church experience?

Acts 4:13

The Privacy of Calling

Luke 2: 19-20 "Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told!"

Luke 2: 51-52 "So He went back to Nazareth with them, and lived obediently with them. His mother held these things dearly, deep within herself. And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people."

The shepherds shouted.

Mary was quiet.

The difference? The shepherd's revelation, and the realization of that revelation, had been completed. Mary's revelation was complete, but her realization was still in process.

So it is when God Calls and reveals.

During the incubation period between revelation and realization, we are called to quiet contemplation, to patient trust.

It's not about you. God didn't give you a calling to make you more significant, successful, or prevalent. He called you to glorify Himself, not you.

This is the patience of the pure.

The quiet confidence of the wise.

Secrets are powerful.

Mary and Joseph together held the most powerful secret calling the world had ever known.

Mary never stood on her calling.

She kept it hidden and deep, and made it a place of quiet communion with the One who had Called.

Let's not cheapen or sell our calling to buy attention or status among mankind.

A calling from God is first privately patient, then publicly obvious.

Missions at Christmas

Luke 1:18 Zachariah said to the angel, "Do you expect me to believe this? I'm an old man, and my wife is an old woman."

Luke 1:34 Mary said to the angel, 'But how? I've never slept with a man.'"

Zachariah knew how God worked. That was his job. Zachariah's training in the priesthood should have taught him to fear God. But when God revealed his plans to Zachariah at his point of greatest personal need and pain, he mocked God.

Mary simply questioned how... no disbelief - the Word was a foregone conclusion. Her question was a matter of practical mechanics: "How?" And her heart response was The Magnificat.

Maybe Z. was having a bad day, but his beligerance was effectively silenced.

My stance when God reveals His plans for me matters.

Perhaps Z. was older, and thus more cynical than a young, naive Mary.

In the end - same angel - practically the same message... an impossible but divinely ordained conception. One recipient received it well - one didn't. But in both cases, God's Word was revealed.

When God calls us, our stance and response matter.

Mary stayed on track by keeping something deep in her heart: the warm ember of belief that nothing is impossible with God. She hadn't a clue how - but she knew that.

Zachariah's doubt evaporated the day his son was born, and Z. was required to fulfill the angel's prophecy himself - to write on a tablet that his son's name was John. I wonder if throughout the pregnancy, Z. was on pins and needles, nervous of screwing the whole thing up. Just "waiting for the other shoe to drop." Wondering if the baby would make it to full term? If Elizabeth would, in her old age, survive the labor and delivery? He doubted the initial message... did he doubt all the way through the pregnancy? That doubt, at the critical point of God's revelation of His calling for Z., cost Z. dearly.

Discipleship with Christ is maintaining that flame of belief, so that when my Calling is revealed, my heart question is not "I wonder if...", but rather "I wonder how..."

Mission vs. Calling vs. Ministry

Mission: John 17:15-18, Matt 28:18-20

Jesus defined the Mission for His Church. Nobody has their own, private Mission.

  • Mission is why we’re here
  • Mission is Jesus’ purpose for His Church on earth
  • Mission is the reason salvation and rapture aren’t simultaneous
  • Mission is Corporate, not individual
  • Our Mission is to Redeem the lost
  • Our Mission is to Restore the broken
  • Our Mission is to build transformational communities

Calling: Romans 11:29, Eph 4:1-16

Your calling is as unique as your fingerprint. Christ gave you unique gifts, talents, and affinities to fulfill His mission. But Calling requires death to our own “best self”, as Christ redeems our personalities, and His Life grows and bears fruit to fulfill His Mission.

  • Calling is who you are
  • Calling is an expression of The Mission
  • Calling is God’s work in the world, thru your unique gifts, talents, and abilities
  • Calling is the context in which you fulfill Christ’s mission

Ministry: Acts 26:13-18, Luke 4:16-21, John 14:11-12

Ministry is not forever – it has a beginning and an end. It carries The Mission into a particular context, thru your unique Calling. When Ministry is esteemed over Mission or Calling, we either avoid it, or perpetuate it way past it’s natural expiration.

  • Ministry is something you do
  • Ministry is an open door to be who you are in a particular context
  • Ministry is one expression of your unique calling
  • Ministry is typically just for a time
  • Ministry is your relationship with God, on public display

Healthy Values

Ephesians 3:14-21
“For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name. I ask God from the wealth of His glory to give you power through His Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, and I pray that Christ will make His home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. Yes, may you come to know His love – although it can never be fully known – and so completely filled with the nature of God. To Him who by means of His power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of: to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever! Amen.”

Christ's love has set us free from performance based Christianity. The following are values that a healthy Christian walks out in their life because of the love and freedom that Jesus has given.

1. Reaching out and increasing relationships with God and others
2. Resolving to live with no secrets: open, honest, real, and accountable.
3. Remaining committed to God, family, Church, people, goals, self.
4. Reflecting areas of denial, apathy, minimization, misinformation in their life
5. Recognizing fears and feelings
6. Resolving problems

The Counterfeit "Calling"

We've all heard them.

We all fear them.

We fear them so much that the fear of a counterfeit calling may cause us to doubt a genuine Call from God.

A counterfeit calling seems to be inspired, smacks of the divine, and is simply - well, too good to be true.

Well, it is.

How do we distinguish between a true Calling from God on our lives vs. a counterfeit calling?

First, live your life in co-submission within a community of Godly people who know your strengths and weaknesses. Lone rangers don't have "missions", they have street fights.

Second, know the Scriptures, and test every "word" from God with the character and instruction we learn from His written Word.

Third, sell out wholeheartedly to personal discipleship, including the ultimate Ideal - to carry the cross that He has given you all the way to your own Golgotha.

There are common, distinguishing marks that help us recognize a Calling from God vs. a counterfeit calling.

A true Calling is teachable.

A counterfeit calling is closed to the counsel of Godly leaders.

A true Calling seeks fellowship.

A counterfeit calling thinks no-one would understand.

A true Calling is bittersweet - it is death, without the sting.

A counterfeit calling is self-aggrandizing.

A true Calling points to Christ.

A counterfeit calling points to me and the fulfillment of my "gifts".

A true Calling is selfless.

A counterfeit calling is about gain.

A true Calling is private and patient.

A counterfeit calling is driven and public.

A true Calling is birthed in the hush of Communion.

A counterfeit calling is formed from my own desires.

A true Calling is unveiled over time, and takes shape in the context of deep personal discipleship, requiring more work and more sacrifice than I could ever imagine.

A counterfeit calling is an epiphany, followed by an obsession.

Jesus' true Calling led Him to His cross.

Mine will, too.

Bob Mumford says we must embrace our own cross - the cross that Christ has called us to bear - so passionately, that we fall in love with the calling because of our love for the One who has called us, until we not only accept the high personal cost, but out of honor and love for the One we imitate, we kiss our own cross until we have a mouth full of splinters.

Permission-Based Ministry

The Ministry of the Masses is based solely on the authority that Jesus has granted to each believer, demonstrated in the Scriptures and the Call of God on their life.

In releasing our "everybody's" for ministry - the Ministry of the Masses of our Church into our community - we acknowledge and leverage the priesthood of every believer.

HOW do we do this? We derive our authority and calling to minister from Jesus Christ. But how do we derive permission from the people to whom we will minister? Who will give us the authority to speak into the deepest, tenderest part of their life - ministering the love and grace of Jesus Christ to redeem them?

In the institutional church, this authority is derived from the power of position - a licensed, ordained, and likely paid position within the church.

In the organic church, this authority is derived from a relational process that I'm inclined to call "Permission-Based Ministry".

The Permission-Based Ministry process goes like this:


We meet people where they are - in the context of their daily life.


The Holy Spirit arranges divine encounters, and knits our hearts together based on similar struggles, compassion, and empathy for each other.


We choose to move outside our comfort zones and pay the price to begin to walk alongside non-believers, to accept them as they are, and to develop friendships with them.


As we build trust, we begin to share not only humor and food and fun - but struggles and need and pain. Our honesty and openness, and the Holy Spirit's drawing power, may result in an invitation from that person to speak into their struggle.


The depth of our own personal discipleship (not our "head knowledge" or pat answers) is able to meet the depth of pain and struggle in someone else. Since it's not about us, but about Jesus, we are able to relate to their need and lead them to the Answer in their own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Thus, we incarnate Christ himself to those we are near.


We invite others into our fellowship, giving them the gift of a community that relates to them not as superiors who have it all together, but as friends with similar struggles who are looking to Jesus as their Hope, seeking Him together (e.g., church), and encouraging each other with His Words and Life.

This process is repeated over and over, and goes beyond relational evangelism - because our product is not simply conversions, but disciples who are passionate about Christ and His Cause in the world.

And in this way, we release all of our "Everybody's" to minister outside the walls of the church, building relationships outside the boundaries of the church, for the purpose of bringing people to Jesus Christ as the Healer of their souls.

We derive our authority to minister from Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church. But we derive our permission to speak into people's lives by invitation only, based on relationships of trust that we build over time by meeting unbelievers where they are, in THEIR context, and by incarnating Christ to them there in humility and honesty.

This is our Mission.