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!


  1. Last week a coworker was making plans for a Christmas party at work. She said we could all bring a box of cereal for the local food pantry. My immediate thoughts were I don't want to do that. Christmas parties are supposed to be fun. I don't want to be giving to people who could be working if they really wanted to. It didn't take long for the Holy Spirit to put the question in my mind, "What are you celebrating? What is Christmas about?" Hmm. Then you post this blog about the good Samaritan & building God's kingdom. Ok, Lord. I get the message. I'm being a little self-centered & selfish.
    (from your brother in Christ & Bill Harper's friend)

  2. Cool, Alvin! Good stuff! Sorry it took awhile to see this comment... keep it coming!