Sabbatical Post 4–A Reminder That Makes All The Difference

One of the keys to living the life God created us to live is to build our lives on His promises.  A reminder that can help us in this area is that when we read any book it’s not the book that is speaking to us, it is the author. When we say something like, “that book really spoke to me,” we reveal a cognitive misunderstanding as well as a relational separation.  The misunderstanding comes from the reality that books do not speak. They are not persons. They are inanimate objects made up of paper and ink.  Books do not speak, authors do.  So, when we read a book, it is not the book that has spoken to us, it is the author of the book that has spoken to us.  So, it would be  more accurate to say something like, “Rankin Wilbourne really spoke to me through his book Union With Christ.”

The reason we often do not mention the author when referring to books that we read highlights something even more important than a cognitive misunderstanding. It highlights the reality that we often have no relational connection with the author.  As a result, when we read something the author has written, we don’t immediately think of the reality that the author is speaking to us. It seems like the book is speaking because we really don’t know the author of the book. As a result, when we read books without thinking about these realities, it seems like a very impersonal experience. It’s just us and the book, not us and the author of the book.

I believe part of our struggle with building our lives on the promises of God is that if we’re not careful we approach the Bible like we approach other books.  I other words, it’s just us and the book rather than us and the author of the book.  When we say things like “that verse really spoke to me,” it can reveal the same cognitive misunderstanding and relational separation we mentioned above.  It can reveal that we have forgotten that the Bible has an author and it can reveal that we don’t have much of a relationship with the author.

So how does all of this relate to building our lives on the promises of God?  It’s this:    When we read the Bible we have to remember that God is the author. We have to remember that God authored the Bible in order to speak to us.  He authored the Bible because He wants a relationship with us and because He has truths and promises that He wants to share with us so that we can know Him and so that we can live the lives He created us to live and so we can become part of His mission on planet earth.  When we remember the cognitive and relational realities surrounding God’s word, it changes the way we approach it.  When we realize that God is the Bible’s author and that God is speaking to us through the Bible it gives us much more motivation to apply the Bible to our lives because ultimately we aren’t building our lives on the Bible, we are living our lives out of a relationship with the God who speaks to us through the Bible.

I would compare this to is what happened many times in my home growing up.  When me and my siblings were older, my parents had to leave for work before we were even out of bed. Sometimes they would leave a note on the table for reminders they wanted to give us or things they were asking us to do. They would always sign the note, “Love, Mom” or “Love, Dad.”  And you see, that last part made all of the difference. These weren’t just impersonal instructions.  They were written by a mom or a dad who loved me. Knowing that and remembering that completely changed the way I read them even if I wasn’t always excited about what they said!

That is very similar to what we need to remember when we read the Bible.  Our loving God authored it and wants to speak to us through it today.  If we remember that reality as we read the Bible it will have a dramatic impact on the way we relate to the message, including the promises, in the Bible!












Sabbatical Post 3–Closing the Gap

In a previous blog I mentioned the book, Union with Christ, by Rankin Wilbourne.  Early in the book he spoke about the gap that many Christians feel between the life the Bible describes as being available to us and the life we are actually living.  Often we are not as close to God as we want to be.  We are not as secure and confident in our faith as we should be. We are not as loving and hope filled.  The list could go on and on.  There is simply a gap between who we are and the experience with God we sense we should have and the life we are actually living.

Personally, I can relate very well to this. I see and feel the gap in my own life.  And though I can honestly say that the gap has been somewhat closed, one of my greatest frustrations in life is that it has not been closed further.  I find myself wanting to be closer to God and to experience Him more deeply than I do.  I want to be able to see people the way He does and love the way He does.  I want to have greater faith that allows me to take risks for the kingdom and have more peace in situations that are tense or difficult.  I want to participate more in the life of God.  I want closer communion with God and more transformation to be truly human in the model of Jesus.  I want the gap to close further and am frustrated that it has not.

But do you know what the good news is according to Wilbourne?  God wants that too!  In fact, the entire Bible, he says, is the story of what God has done to make it possible for the gap to close and for people to more fully participate in the life of God.   It opens in the Garden of Eden with two people and all creation in perfect unity with God.    However, things went bad very quickly when they chose to disobey God. And though there were consequences what we see is that God did not condemn them or relate to them in a way that caused them to be overcome with guilt or to wallow in shame.  Instead, He came to them, Wilbourne writes, and asked, “Where are you?”  Of course, it wasn’t that God didn’t know where they were.  It was that God wanted them to see where they were. He wanted them to see where their disobedience had placed them. He wanted them to see that they were no longer in the same relational location with Him and with the life He had created them to have.  It had moved them,  separated them from fellowship with God. It had separated them from the life God had created them to have. It had relocated them to a place where pain and death and suffering and insecurity would be part of their experience.  They were no longer participants in the life of God because their relational location had changed.  And ultimately, His question was designed to help them see that it was their sin that had relocated them.

The entire rest of the Bible says Wilbourne is an unfolding narrative revealing God’s relentless pursuit to restore humanity, now banished from God’s presence because of sin, to God’s original intent, perfect communion and union with Him, with each other and with all creation.  It is the story of his efforts to restore what was lost in Eden, to help them find their way back home.   To demonstrate this he references Sara Richter in her book The Epic of Eden.  There she highlights the parallels between the opening of the book of Genesis and the closing of the book of Revelation.  The New Jerusalem is all that Eden was meant to be and more—a fruit filled paradise, watered by a cosmic river, graced by the Tree of Life.  It will not need a Temple because God himself will dwell there (Revelation 21:22), except now not with just two people but with a number too great to count from every nation (5:9).

So, where are you?   If, like me, your not completely satisfied with your current location, I encourage you to read the book, Union with Christ, with me and discover more about how to make a move and close the gap.

I need to go, the “moving truck” just pulled up and Jesus is in the drivers seat!

Sabbatical Post 2, The Multi-site Church

Churches that passionately exist for relationship with Jesus and His mission thrive while those who do not, die.  I was recently reminded of this reality as I looked again at the early church in Jerusalem and Antioch.  The church in Antioch started when believers from the Jerusalem church suffered persecution and were scattered to various locations telling both Jews and Greeks the Good News about Jesus (Acts 11:19).   When this happened in Antioch we are told that a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord (Acts 11:21).  In fact, God did such a powerful work in Antioch that both Barnabas and Paul traveled there and taught the church for an entire year.

At this point, the future looked bright for both churches.  In effect, the Jerusalem church multiplied itself by establishing another church in Antioch.  However, if you continue to track these two churches forward into history, what you observe is that the Jerusalem church faded into the background while the church in Antioch took center stage.  Why?  Because the church in Antioch remained passionate about the accomplishment of the Great Commission and the church in Jerusalem did not.  The church in Antioch continued to multiply itself in other locations as an expression of its dedication to Jesus and the mission He had given it while the church in Jerusalem became more and more committed to maintaining the status quo and more and more content with the ministry they already had.

This pattern has been repeated over and over again throughout history in various churches. They often start as a result of a group of people who had a great passion for Jesus and for the mission.  However, over time, they become less and less focused on the mission and more and more focused on their own needs and wants and traditions. As a result, they begin to exist for themselves rather than for Jesus and the mission machine they once were becomes a maintenance machine instead.  With that shift the slow process of death and decline begins in the original church to the degree that God sends those who still have a missional heart out to do a new work of reaching the lost and establishing a new church. Typically, the new church is the one that remains strong and vibrant because of a passion for mission while the original church fades into the background.

How can an established church avoid this fate?  The answer is to remain committed to Jesus and to the mission He has given it by proactively and passionately multiplying itself in new locations in order to reach new people for Jesus and to establish new missional churches. This is why during my sabbatical I have scheduled several experiences to explore something called, “The Multi-site Church.”  The Multi-site church is a church that multiplies itself be starting “branches” of itself in other locations. The purpose is to reach the lost and make disciples and establish churches that will establish churches.  This is something that I feel God is laying on my heart and asking me to explore.  Please pray with me that God will use these experiences to show me what He wants me to see. This could have exciting possibilities for us at HMBC as it relates to accomplishing our mission to help people find faith in Christ and to develop Christ-like people.  I will be visiting two different churches that are successfully accomplishing the mission through the multi-site approach as well as attending a ministry conference designed to highlight this exciting approach to multiplication.

Praying the Lord’s hand will be with us as He was with those who went to Antioch!

Pastor Brian

Sabbatical Post 1

Hi everyone!  I thought a good way to communicate during my sabbatical would be to start a blog.  I plan to share what I’m experiencing, what I’m learning and how I’m growing.  One of the things I am doing this first week is reading the book, “Union with Christ,” by Rankin Wilbourne. I would highly recommend it.  The sub title is, “The Way to Know and Enjoy God.”  His basic premise is that most of us feel a big gap between what and who God created us to be and who we really are.  Wilbourne believes that coming to a greater understanding of what it means to be united with Christ (a doctrine taught in many places in the New Testament), and learning to live out of the new identity that is formed within us through that understanding, will help us close the gap and become more of who God created us to be.  Speaking of his own experience Wilbourne wrote, “I was much more accustomed to thinking of Christ as a savior outside of me than as one who dwells within and has united his life to mine.”

If you have ever thought, “there has got to be more to the Christian life than what I am experiencing,” this book may help you find it!

God bless everyone!


Colossians 1:27