Water For Living by Camey Gravley

Many years ago, a man intentionally invested in the lives of my family. Because he was such a living breathing portrait of Christ, our family could not help but be changed forever. He gave of himself in ways that many times no one else had a clue about. Countless phone calls, emails, and etc even after our family had moved away and were no longer under his seemingly direct care as our pastor. That’s how sold out he was to what he believed in and whom he believed in.

This past week, our church took 13 youth to camp. You might be thinking that does not sound like very many to you. In other context, I might tend to agree with you on that. But these were not just any 13 youth. They were youth that we have been exceedingly intentional on investing in. Youth that have cups with their name on it in our kitchen cabinet in our home because they have spent time in our home at our table. 13 may sound like an unlucky number to some as well. But considering it was almost double of what went last year, how could that possibly be bad?

We learned that the man unexpectedly to us went to Heaven on his 58th birthday while at camp. I must confess that I was shook hard. Not that I had left anything unsaid with him because that is far from the case. We did not hesitate in saying that we loved each other because of how tender & God-life giving the love was. I was shook hard because it reminded me yet again about his intentionality in our lives. How even though he did not know any of the youth that were with us personally – he was praying for them. How often do you pray for someone you do not even know just because they’re connected to someone you love relentlessly and are invested in?

When we’re truly living in a way that shows who is the real leader of our minds as well as hearts – we will have cups with people’s names on them that other people might just want to pass right on by even if they trip on their untied shoelaces in the process. When we take the time to remember that our lives are truly to be about and for God and not the capital “I” – we will be intentional on not only noticing others but being willing to bend down and tie their shoelaces. Even if doing so means bending down on the ground to reach it. For someone short like me – it’s not that far of a distance to reach the ground. But just that simple act of kindness can speak volumes.

Our lives are busy. I’m sure yours is no different. But what ways are you being intentional in living life with others? As a pastor’s family – we can use the excuse that our home should be totally off limits. We’ll just see them when at the physical church building when it’s time for “church.” As the current youth leader, I could pull the – “I’m with you on Wednesday & Thursday nights. That ought to be enough.” Sure Jesus went off to have time to get alone. We should too. But not at the expense of closing off that which God meant to be shared – everyday life and living. You hurt – I hurt too. You cry – I wipe your tears. That’s a radical kind of “I” because it goes against what Satan wants and points directly to God and His love. How busy are you again?

Summer is here. Just yesterday, it was 112 degrees. No denying how incredibly hot that is. You simply could not escape the heat. A simple thing like a cup of water or cool refreshing sweet ice tea does wonders on a hot summer day. How sweeter to have it in a cup with your very own name on it in someone’s home that loves you relentlessly? God loves us like that so much so that Jesus died on the cross with my name not only on Him but pouring out of His veins too.

Stop for just a moment and think about individuals who have been intentional in your life’s moments because of God’s love for them first and then theirs for you. Perhaps it was a pastor, youth leader, teacher or someone you went to school with? What would your life’s moments look like now if they had not invested intentionally in you? What if they had ran right on past you because they were too busy to notice you? Or they did not want to take the time because it was you?

May summer of 2011 be the time when God’s love is spread like a flowing spring of living water! You’re reading this! You’ve been prayed for! It was intentional.

A Biblical Commitment Demands Cultural Relevance by Paul Alexander

Much has been said and written in recent years, offering up all kinds of criticism of modern day Churches for trading off adherence to the Gospel of Jesus Christ for contemporary methods of communicating it. Interestingly enough the overwhelming majority of this criticism comes by way of other Churches. Typically it comes from Churches that are not growing criticizing Churches that are growing. After all, if a Church is growing, they’ve got to be doing something wrong don’t they?

I have a tendency to go the other way on this one. In fact, I’d go so far as to say if a Church isn’t working hard to be culturally relevant, it isn’t working hard to remain true to the Scriptures! You can’t be radically committed to the Scriptures without being radically committed to communicating the Scriptures in a culturally relevant manner.

It’s an easy statement to make because God has always communicated his message to people in a culturally relevant manner. Language, the time, place, ethnicity, gender, community, governance, and more has always been taken into consideration as the message of God was communicated to a particular audience.

The Apostle Paul, a master missionary, knew this about the heart of God and understood that the Gospel must be contextualized to each specific culture:

#1 Take time to understand the culture of your audience.

“…for as I was walking along I saw your many altars…” Acts 17:23

#2 Be positive, not negative, about the culture of your audience.

“So Paul, standing before the Council, addressed them as follows: ’Men of Athens, I noticed that you are very religious…” Acts 17:22

#3 Use the culture of your audience to connect with the heart of your audience.

“His purpose in all of this was that the nations should seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As one of your own poets says, ‘We are his offspring.’” Acts 17:27-28

#4 Relationally speak truth to your audience.

“For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:31


About The Author

Paul Alexander is a Pastor, Leader, and Church Strategist. He has spent the last ten years of ministry serving in three mega-church settings as a Youth Pastor, Executive Pastor, and Lead Pastor. He has been married to his wife Lisa for 14 years. Together they have three children Kennedy, Mia, and Lincoln. You can follow Paul on Twitter or at his blog.

It’s the Medium, Dummy by Steve Sjogren

All communication boils down to two simple things: The message and the medium.

One president in our generation won his election in a come from behind victory as his election manager wrote on the central white board, “It’s the economy dummy!” With that focus in mind, the campaign supposedly hammered on that single message for the remainder of the campaign and squeaked by with a victory. We too have a single word that is in need of clarification – Medium. That is, we understand the good news of Jesus. Face it, if my friend Dr. David Wheeler’s six year old daughter can lead ten kids in her neighborhood near the campus of Liberty University where he teaches, your people can share this message with clarity (she has been busy since August! – her approach – popsicles of kindness to open the door of relationship, then it’s only a matter of time…)

Live In The Flow

As someone who has had a huge value for being an inviter of not-yet believers into the kingdom – and seeking to show others how to live that way as well I now realize I modeled Part A and missed the far more important issue, Part B. That is, the message is simple stuff. By and large, nearly all reading this would agree on the content of the simple gospel, the good news of Jesus is.

If you weren’t aware of it, stats have held steady for several decades now, that even among the most “evangelistic” congregations in the U.S., only about 3% in such churches will even one time in their lifetimes share the gospel with someone outside of their immediate family. Put it another way. If you have a church that runs consistently 100 on the weekend, chances are, only 3 people in your congregation will in their entire lifetime explain the gospel to one more people.

Four words come to my mind each time I read that stat: That makes Jesus cry. The close of Matthew 28 makes it clear that God’s family can’t be large enough to satisfy his aching heart for those he is longing to see join his family.

This begs the question – “Why is this so?” And, “Why is this not the case in the Church of the three-quarter’s world?” (Indeed the stats there are dramatically different.) This matter is one that could fill a book easily, but let me touch on one simple issue here.

Turn On The “Screen” Once Again

At one time all of us noticed others far more than we do now – at least in most of our cases. The busier we become, the less we notice others. The less we notice others, the more calloused we become. Calloused people are the opposite of the ones who live like Jesus. It is a simple progression.

Call it the “Noticing Screen” or the “Inner Radar” or whatever you wish. Until we slow it down a bit, until we begin to pray the “Jesus, I’m willing to be interrupted by your invitations” prayers, there is little chance we will see our lives be used by Jesus as a pipeline to hold the hands of others as they come into his family.

This is not a program. We aren’t “on” at times and “off” at times. We live invitationally 168 hours a week.

You live that way first. You will discover this life is amazingly energizing no matter what you may be thinking at this moment. Do this for six months and see what happens in your church. No doubt there will be a polarizing effect as you tell your stories – the good ones, the funny ones, the ones when you fall on your face, but since when didn’t the kingdom polarize?

Heading toward retiring? Forget it. It’s time to refire!

Go with those who are willing. Hug the rest and pray they get it.