Friday, July 30, 2010

Whose Kingdom...?

Be warned, I am in a feisty mood. Something has been eating at me...
A little backdrop:
Over the Fourth of July weekend, we had family over to the house for a nice potluck dinner, followed by a fireworks display. It was great! Each family member brought a food dish and we all shared together in the bounty. Afterward we went to the area fireworks display to celebrate freedom and enjoy each other's company. Not everyone brought blankets, but some brought extra, so every family had a blanket to sit on as we celebrated the 4th of July on my wife's birthday. It was a great evening!
All Things in Common
So what is eating at you? You may be asking. Not that... The evening was great; we all enjoyed gathering and sharing things in common. What bothers me is how unusual this is - not for my family to get together, but for people to share all things in common.
Look at what was said about the early church: "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people... Acts 2:44-47"
Now, I am not preaching about doing church or even meeting together. I have a much more pertinent issue to air out here: living the Kingdom message.
Whose Kingdom are you building?
Many years ago my brother Bob brought a teaching to my uncle's very profitable and powerful company entitled, "Whose Kingdom are you building?" It was a bold, yet honest question that He delicately laid onto their laps (I might have launched it like a grenade, but Bob, in his compassionate gift, just gently dropped it :-). Not sure what they did with it, but it has stayed with me ever since.
So, I ask, whose Kingdom are you building? Yours, or God's? Realize it or not, we are building one or the other (and if we are building our own, then we are helping to build the enemy's Kingdom... told you I can launch grenades :-).
Becoming more fed Up:
I find myself fed up with "Christians"! What? You heard me right. I am fed up with people that call themselves after Christ's name but who do not resemble the characteristics of Christ (yes, I do evaluate myself by the same standard and I aim to repent when I fall short. Yes, I do remove the plank from my own eye before I look at any other speck... I speak from what I live, including where I have fallen short and gotten back up. Truth is, I am fed up with myself sometimes. You? :-).
Trials teach us God's ways
It is interesting what you learn in the midst of life's trials. When I made decent income in my previous job I tried to be sensitive to the needs of others, but looking back I only saw shadows of reality. Now that I have been through a long and difficult season of lack, I see a bit differently. You learn a great deal of compassion when you walk through difficult times. It's good, yet it is painful to see how blind people, including myself, are to other's needs.
The Good Samaritan:
I have been impacted before by the story of the Good Samaritan, but not until now has it felt so real and present. Try to read this for the very first time and catch what Jesus is saying to us.
"On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." Luke 10:25-37

How many of us see a need and just keep walking? I wonder what the priest and Levite were thinking that encouraged them to go to the other side of the road and keep walking? Were they in a hurry to get somewhere? Where they afraid? Were they too dressed up to be willing to get dirty? Did they assume the man got himself into this mess - that he somehow deserved it? Did they judge the man, looking down on him as poor, wretched, weak? What must they have been thinking? What would cause someone to ignore another man's needs?
I do not want to enable you!
Or, maybe, like many of us today, they didn't want to "enable" him. Have you ever heard that phrase used before? Maybe you have said or thought that yourself a time or two. Here is how it works: Steve doesn't have a job and he is in obvious need of help. So instead of reaching out to help, we ignore Steve while reasoning that we do not want to enable him. In other words, Steve has the same ability as we do to work and get a job. He needs to get off his butt and work! We do not want to enable him and cause him to depend on us, right? There may be times this has merit, but do we take the time to get God's heart for Steve? Do we take a minute to put ourselves in Steve's shoes to see what it must be like for him (compassion)? Maybe there is a good reason Steve is not working... do we ever stop to ask? Or, like the priest and the Levite, do we just keep walking on the other side of the road justifying why we are ignoring the obvious need?
Good reason vs Good Samaritan:
There must have been a good reason swirling through the heads of the priest and the Levite as they kept walking past the need. But what good reason would God accept? Thank God for the Samaritan! If not for him, the man could have died on the side of the road, while the more well-to-do walked on by as they ignored God's child in need.
You see, from what I understand, the Samaritans were looked down upon by the priests and Levites. They were a lower class. Maybe this is why the Samaritan had compassion. Maybe he knew what it felt like to be ignored and overlooked by others. He wasn't about to treat another human being with such disdain. He had heart, and his heart overcame any pride, faulty thinking, judgement or fear that may have hindered the others.
It's a privilege to call ourselves after His name:
You see my friend, there is much more to the "Christian" life than going to church, fellowship and memorizing a few scriptures. Religion without the love and presence of Christ is a waste of time! Why bother? If we do not love one another, then we ought not call ourselves "Christians" because that is not what Christ taught and lived. It is an honor and privilege to call ourselves after the name of Christ, and we have a responsibility to carry His name as He intended.
Here is what He intended:
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35
"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves." Romans 12:10
"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." Romans 13:8

"We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." 1 John 4:19-21
How do we love our brother?
As Jesus concluded His point with the expert of the law, so will I: "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." Luke 10:36-37
I warned you that I was in a fiesty mood :-)
Balance is needed:
Though we are not to ignore need, and compassion is to lead us, it is important to clarify something here: Compassion is not being driven by need, but rather being driven by what the Lord is stirring through His compassion within you when He wants to do somthing through you (Jesus did that which the Father said do)... The mistake many make is they make the need the call, instead of obeying what the Father is saying and stirring - that is why time with Him, hearing His voice, is so crucial.
That said, we need to be careful not to respond as the priest and Levite did, making excuses as we walk on by. Rather, in each case, it is crucial that we ask the Father what He wants to do...
Enjoy The Journey!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thermally Enjoyable!

While sitting on the porch looking out over the lake in the middle of this summer day, Ken pointed to the large bird in the air. "It is riding the thermal."
"What is a Thermal?" I dare asked.
Ken informed me that it has something to do with warm midday air hitting the ground and bouncing up, forming a wind that certain large winged birds rest in and are lifted up to greater heights...
Upon some further research, I found this: "Thermals are updrafts of warm air that rise from the ground into the sky. By flying a spiraling circular path within these columns of rising air, birds are able to 'ride' the air currents and climb to higher altitudes while expending very little energy in the process. Solitary birds like eagles and hawks often take advantage of thermals to extend their flight time as they search for food..."("). Just like Ken taught me.
Eagles ride the Thermals
I find it of great interest that "Eagles... take advantage of thermals to extend their flight time..." Look at what Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 40:30-31: "Even youths grow tired and weary,and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." We were created to soar on wings like Eagles. We were made to ride the thermals!
The Early Bird Gets the Worms
Have you ever heard the phrase "The early bird gets the worm"? Does every bird like worms? Do Eagles eat worms? From my limited understanding, the large winged birds do not like worms. They eat meat! I for one, do not like worms! What about you?
Eagles were not created to be like the "early birds", they are bigger, more powerful and perhaps a bit less agile. Eagles, and other large winged birds, benefit from the winds of a Thermal. It makes their flying experience easier and more effective. A tiny "early bird" would not do quite so well in a spiraling thermal, nor would they find many worms.
Lessons from the winds of the Thermal
Again: "...those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 30:31. It's time we learn to soar.
Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29
Jesus has called us to come to Him and rest, to take on His easy yoke and enjoy Him and his peace. Yet, how many can allow themselves to slow down enough to do so?
Isaiah reports "... God will speak to this people, to whom he said, 'This is the resting place, let the weary rest'; and, 'This is the place of repose'— but they would not listen." Isaiah 28:11-12
Perhaps we are wearing ourselves out trying to keep up with the "early birds", while settling for "worms", when God has created us to eat "meat" and ride upon the wind of His Spirit like Eagles.
Here is what the Apostle Paul says on the matter: "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."
God has created us to eat "solid food", why settle for "worms"? :-)
"You are too heavenly minded"
Have you ever heard the phrase "You are so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good?" I understand the point, and it has merit. Some people are so flaky that they detract from the work of the kingdom upon the earth. Yet, there are also those who are so earthly minded that they are of no heavenly good!
Some are so busy doing what they think is "godly" that they are missing what is really of importance and value.
"The good that is the enemy of the best." ...
"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38-42
Martha was doing what most would do. She was busy preparing and doing. Mary was sitting at Jesus feet. Martha was troubled by Mary's lack of help (what some would classify as "lazy"). Jesus was teaching a higher way of living, "Mary has chosen what is better." Being busy is "good", but being with Jesus is the "Best"! Many settle for the good that is the enemy of the best. One thing to note, Martha gets a bad rap, but this was when Jesus first met them, so she grew from this. So will we.
Many of us are stuck being earth bound when God has called us to be heaven bound.
We are not of this world.
"If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world..." John 15:19
"My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it." Jn 17:15-16.

We have a unique calling to be in the world, as lights in the midst of darkness, but not to be of the world. We are to be in the world but not ensnared by the ways and philosophy of the world. We have been given a higher perspective.
We are seated with Christ in Heavenly places
"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus..." Ephesians 2:6
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:1-3.
We are seated with Christ in Heavenly places, high above all rulers and principalities, and not bound by the limitations of earth. We are seated with Christ in Heavenly places!
We are to soar to greater heights and see from a higher perspective.
It is always beneficial to examine ourselves
"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test." 2 Cor. 13:5-6. Perhaps we should all evaluate ourselves and take note: Are we the "Early bird" who has settled for "worms"? Or, are we extending our wings and riding the wind of His Spirit soaring to new heights?
Greater heights await us
There is something greater that the father has for us. Are we willing to let go of what we believe is good in order to soar into what God calls great?
Remember: "...By flying a spiraling circular path within these columns of rising air, birds are able to 'ride' the air currents and climb to higher altitudes while expending very little energy in the process. Solitary birds like eagles and hawks often take advantage of thermals to extend their flight time..."
It's time we take advantage of what Christ has done for us, and learn to "ride the air currents" of His Spirit and "climb to higher altitudes", where we are seated with Christ in heavenly places, "while expending very little energy in the process", as we take hold of His easy yoke and rest with Him... this my friend will "extend our flight time" and add valuable years to our life.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer." Proverbs 9:10-11
Perhaps it is time we "mount up with wings as Eagles" and soar to new heights as one.
I trust and pray that you will thermally enjoy your journey!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Prepared For His Promises

What do you do when circumstances are trying and you see no hope before you?
"The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert... traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded... the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said,"Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?"
Ex 17:2-3
The children of Israel felt like Moses and God had brought them out to the desert to die. The desert sands get hot and the lack of typical provision and purpose brings out what's really inside a person;it's easy to grow weary and feel like God has left you out to die.
Have you ever felt the heat?
"Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. "
Ouch! It is so easy to complain sometimes, but it doesn't go over real well with our Father and creator.
I feel for them:
The children of Israel had reason to be afraid as they wondered aimlessly in this vast and lonely desert not knowing where God was leading them or where there next meal was going to come from. It must have been tough.
I understand...
Our journey has been difficult too: failed dreams, unfulfilled visions, going from place to place and thing to thing wondering where God was leading us. We have lacked in every major area of life: provision, purpose, relationship... We seem to be going nowhere fast. Many months have left us not knowing where our next provision was going to come from. We have been in a modern-day "Desert" of lack and it's been tough (yet he has faithfully provided "Manna" each month).
If all we have is the current trying circumstances to gauge from then we are in Big trouble! When all you can see is trying circumstances, it is very easy to panic and question God, His leaders, and others around you. Sometimes we do wonder, "did you bring us out here to die?"
Thank God we have past history to learn from (so we don't make the same mistake twice):
"Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of the men twenty years old or more who came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob-" Numbers 32:10-12 "Not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it." Numbers 14:22-24
Why was God so angry with the Children of Israel?
My guess (based on evidence from scripture and speculation): 1. The trials revealed their true heart and lack of gratitude 2. He is their maker and they His chosen people, yet they held tightly to their own lives and did not trust Him with their whole being. 3. They were so consumed with their natural circumstances/hardships that they totally missed God. God did so much on their behalf, and they missed most of it: A. He led them out of Egypt, freeing them from years of slavery. B. He gave them a Godly, desert trained, leader (Moses). C. He parted the Red Sea (Come on!). D. He led them with a cloud by day and fire by night. E. He destroyed their enemy (Red Sea). F. He provided for all their daily needs (Manna, their clothes and shoes never wore out). G. He protected them. H. He visited them (His Glory). I. He gave them the best land as their inheritance (Promise Land). J. HE IS GOOD-It's who He is!
We move toward what we think about most:
Most of the Children of Israel were so self-consumed, fearful, ungrateful... that they were blind to the greater reality. All they could see was the natural trials around them. They were so consumed with the hardships of the moment that they missed God and all the wonderful, amazing ways He supernaturally intervened on their behalf. They obviously did not know Him well, or they would have known His goodness.
"And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites... a land flowing with milk and honey.'" Exodus 3:16-18
It was there's to have. All they had to do was walk and obey!
Remember the 12 spies who went to scout out the Promise land? 10 negative scouts saw giants and were afraid, 2 positive scouts - Joshua and Caleb -saw the goodness of God and and the great land he promised to give them.
The Negative report:
"...All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?... Numbers 14:1-4"
The Positive report:
"Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them. Numbers 14:6-9"
God's Report (The bottom line):
"...The Lord said to Moses, "How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?... "...Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun." Numbers 14:1-44
The plight of those who gave the reports:
"...So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it- these men responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord. Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived. Numbers 14:36-39"
Be careful not to miss the "Promise Land" God has for you:
Many of the Children of Israel missed the promise of God due to their grumbling and complaining. Moses also, though he was God's faithful leader, missed the Promise land as well:
"(Moses)and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them."
It sounds like a raw deal, after leading these people for 40 yrs, but Moses allowed the rebellion of the people to get him out of a yielded place before the Lord. Moses struck the rock in anger, not trusting and honoring God, therefore he was unable to enter the Promise land... Leaders must be careful to stay in a yielded place of trust before the Lord at all times, even when people are being very difficult. Anger, not surrendered to the Lord, can cost dearly.
Thank God, we are not under the Old Testament law any longer. Thank You Jesus, for your death and resurrection that brought forth Grace. Glad we will not be destroyed for our rebellion. But, there are still consequences to our decisions - we still have our will and our choices do matter. God does discipline those He loves (Heb 12:5-7), and He also rewards the faithful(1 Sam 26:22-24).
As a reward for His faithful obedience, Joshua got to lead the people into the Promise Land (40 yrs later):
" "...No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them." Joshua 1:1-6
What made Joshua different?
1.He spent time in The Glory:"The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent." Exodus 33:10-12 Joshua knew the goodness and presence of God. He was intimate with His creator.
2. Joshua obeyed God regardless of the price.
3. Joshua saw the promise land and knew it was good - He kept the Vision before him.
4. Joshua was grateful for all that God had done, is doing, and will do.
Count it all joy, in the midst of the desert:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."James 1:2-4
"...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:3-5
How can we be sure to reach God's "Promise Land" for us?" 4 Keys:
1. Spend ample time in His Glory... (Exodus 33:10-12)
2. Obey God regardless the price "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matthew 10:38-40
3. Keep the Vision before you "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-4.
4. Thank God for all that He has done, is doing, and will do (Attitude of Gratitude: "In all things"... even in the desert while being prepared.)
God is preparing a people for the fulfillment of His promises!
Will you and I be among those who endure, who keep the vision before us, rest in His Glory, and praise Him in all things?
If so, we too will see His Glory and dwell in His promises! We are being prepared for His Promises!
Enjoy The Journey!