BLESS

Five Ways To Live For The Big Kingdom When You're Busy

Image Last Sunday, we talked about our desire for more and that following Jesus means living in his kingdom rather than continuing to build our own. In praying for our response to what Jesus said to us, I'm concerned that some of us might think that living for more is impossible because our lives are busy and we can't afford to do more than what we're doing right now.

So let's make sure we're on the same page with Jesus. First, ask him how he wants you to live for the big kingdom. Second, pick up a copy of Paul Tripp's book A Quest For More and take notes. Third, remember that your everyday life matters to Jesus.

Living for the big kingdom is about how we listen and respond to Jesus in the next ten minutes.

What does that look like? We have a rhythm of life that we call BLESS that helps us follow Jesus by loving the people God has put around us. I think it provides five ways for busy people to live for more:

  1. B - Begin with prayer. The next time you're in between tasks, take a few minutes to pray for the people and situations going on around you; ask for help to live beyond your natural wisdom and energy. Prayer both primes the pump for the rest of your life and is the single most powerful and effective way to change the world around you.
  2. L - Listen. Be curious and pay attention to what's happening around you. Perhaps that means reading the news or reading a mom blog. More likely, it's listening and looking out for the places where life simply isn't the way it's supposed to be.
  3. E - Eat. You're going to eat a few times today. Once a week, have a meal with someone who is different than you. That might be someone younger or older than you; could be someone at work who looks different than you; might be someone who doesn't know Jesus. Start with people you think you'd get along with. Ask questions. Learn their story. Encourage them.
  4. S - Serve. As you're spending time praying, listening and asking questions, you'll probably see places that you can help them. The simple act of picking up an extra shift, taking kids to school, providing childcare so mom and dad can get away for a few hours, and a million other things that help the people around you - this is big kingdom living.
  5. S - Share. Following Jesus by living for the big kingdom is a curious life. It's the life we were all made to live. How will you respond when someone thanks you for helping them or wonders why you wanted to grab coffee?

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BLESS: Share God's Story (With The Help Of Improv)

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Jesus reminds us that real, everyday life can be summarized as love for God and for neighbor. God in his wisdom and providence has put the particular people around us that he intends for us to care for. And while there is something familiar about this notion of loving people, we've learned as a church that all of us struggle to go about this task with clarity and confidence.

So with the notion that principles are strengthened by sound practice, we are learning to live out the principle of loving our neighbor by implementing a practice we call BLESS:

There is nothing more loving than telling the people around you about God and a love that does not press towards sharing God's story is incomplete. We were made to know God and our friendships are evidence of this desire to know and be known; so in our relationships we know that God is at work and is reminding us that we were created to be with him.

I also find that it can be difficult to know when to talk about God with our friends. Here are three hints from the world of improv*:

  1. Listen. Rather than jamming our God talk into a conversation, slow down and listen without listening for anything. Take in anything and everything someone says as an offer you can do something with.
  2. Say 'Yes and.' Take what your friend has offered in conversation and present an even bigger set of options.
  3. Make your friend look good. Your conversation is not an argument to win but an invitation to find solutions that were not previously imagined.

In improv, you never try to get someone to do something. That's coercion. Improv allows you to take a journey where previously unknown possibilities emerge. And we're not talking about some kind of cheap parlor trick - we listen because God is always and already at work in the life of our friends; we say 'yes and' as often as possible because the good news we call the gospel pervades all of life and opens up new ways of thinking, feeling, living; we can make our friend look good because the reputation of Jesus does not depend on our ability to convince people that we are right.

One last thing: if the gospel pervades all of life and every one of us needs to hear good news in the course of everyday life, then these kinds of conversations aren't limited to what we call 'evangelism.' I find this is helpful for those of us who freak out about talking about God to friends who are not followers of Jesus. One way to become more comfortable in our conversations with non-Christians is to be intentional in our conversations with people who are already Christians.

*This is taken from chapter 8, 'Improvise', in Daniel Pink's To Sell Is HumanYou should pick up a copy

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BLESS: Serve

Image Jesus reminds us that real, everyday life can be summarized as love for God and for neighbor. God in his wisdom and providence has put the particular people around us that he intends for us to care for. And while there is something familiar about this notion of loving people, we've learned as a church that all of us struggle to go about this task with clarity and confidence.

So with the notion that principles are strengthened by sound practice, we are learning to live out the principle of loving our neighbor by implementing a practice we call BLESS:

As you pray for, listen to and eat with the people that God has put around you, opportunities to serve will present themselves. I find at least two categories of opportunities - 1) those where your particular set of skills come in handy and 2) those where you're capable of meeting a real need, even if it's not something that you're great at or particularly enjoy. So if you bake, maybe once a month you make an extra batch of cookies and take it to your neighbor or the office. Or when your friend's basement is flooded, you show up and run a dry-vac for an hour.

Speaking of, I absolutely blew a great opportunity to help a friend over the weekend with his flooded basement. We spent some time together Saturday afternoon and I met him at his house. We had over 3 inches of rain in 36 hours in Athens and when I got there, his basement was flooded. He told me then that he'd end up coming home and cleaning up and after we came back he mentioned it again. Now I don't think he was looking for my help and the thought didn't cross my mind to stick around and help...until the next morning.

Here's one of the takeaways I had from that: the more often you live out this rhythm, the more naturally you'll act on it. So if you're new to BLESS, you'll probably have a few forehead-slapping moments when you miss some chances to love people well. Don't give up, ask God to help you see the world through his eyes and to provide what you need to serve people well.

TomorrowSharing God's Story

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BLESS - Listen and Eat

Image Jesus reminds us that real, everyday life can be summarized as love for God and for neighbor. God in his wisdom and providence has put the particular people around us that he intends for us to care for. And while there is something familiar about this notion of loving people, we've learned as a church that all of us struggle to go about this task with clarity and confidence.

So with the notion that principles are strengthened by sound practice, we are learning to live out the principle of loving our neighbor by implementing a practice we call BLESS:

I have a list of people around me that I pray for and that's as far as it gets, most often because I don't have a lot of opportunity for relational contact (i.e., my barista at Starbucks on Wednesday, the checkout guy at Publix who seems to really enjoy his work).

But I am finding that I usually have the opportunity to take things one step further by asking questions and Listening to what people have to say. I may not know everything about Joe the Barber but I know something. I know that one of my neighbors is struggling with an aging mother. Slowing down and asking questions that go beyond a perfunctory 'how are you' go a long way in reminding people that they matter. Don't underestimate the small ways that God's kingdom breaks through.

The next step you might take is to Eat - grabbing a meal or a drink with someone that you're getting to know. We're getting a bit down the funnel now: I pray for a lot of people and take time to ask questions and listen when I can; it's when there's a sense of connection that I'm willing to see if someone wants to take the time to talk more over a meal, coffee, drinks after work. I find this is usually a place to continue conversations we've already started in an environment that's comfortable and affords more time. Sometimes the conversation turns to things that are explicitly spiritual; most of the time we're still talking about common interests and/or everyday life. If God's kingdom infiltrates every sphere of life, your conversation about sports or politics or class projects or your kids' schedules counts. Congratulations on caring enough about your friend to carve out time to love them like Jesus!

Again, I find this to be a pattern of life for our relationships with both Christians and non-Christians. It brings intentionality to all of our relationships and as someone who struggles with stereotypical evangelism, this makes it possible to believe that God can use me to help people get close to Jesus.

Next Week - Serving and Sharing

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BLESS: Begin with prayer

Image Jesus reminds us that real, everyday life can be summarized as love for God and for neighbor. God in his wisdom and providence has put the particular people around us that he intends for us to care for. And while there is something familiar about this notion of loving people, we've learned as a church that all of us struggle to go about this task with clarity and confidence.

So with the notion that principles are strengthened by sound practice, we are learning to live out the principle of loving our neighbor by implementing a practice we call BLESS:

  • B - Begin with prayer
  • L - Listen
  • E - Eat
  • S - Serve
  • S - Share

Over the course of the next week, we'll talk more about each of these. For today, I would encourage you to notice the people that God has put around you - in your neighborhood, at work, in class, as you go about the business of your day. Pray for them. Ask God to help them know the greatness, glory, goodness and grace of God today. Now would be a good time to pray for whatever you need to love them like Jesus. Perhaps you don't know your neighbor's name. Or maybe you work with someone who is a particular character and your office has responded by effectively shunning them. Whoever God has put around you - Christian or not - they have been put there for you to love them towards Jesus.

God wants you to love your neighbor today. BLESS them - begin with prayer. Start now. Watch for opportunities during the day.

Friday - We BLESS people by Listening to their story.

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Am I Following Jesus?

following-jesus We define discipleship in our church as following Jesus together and we suggest two ways to evaluate discipleship on a personal level:

  1. Am I listening and responding to what God is telling me?
  2. Am I actively and intentionally helping other people listen and respond to God?

This is how we think about the biblical mandate to love God and love neighbor.

One of the things that we've observed in asking those two questions about ourselves is that principles need practices. This is why we focus our discipleship around two practices that we call REAP and BLESS.

  1. REAP helps me listen and respond to what God is telling me as I Read, Examine, Apply the Bible and respond in Prayer.
  2. BLESS allows me to help other people listen and respond to God by Beginning with prayer, Listening to them, Eating with them, Serving them, and Sharing God's story that we call the gospel.

You can read more about REAP here.

We're working on material to help you make BLESS a regular part of your everyday life.

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