Musings on Personally Perceived Strangeness of this Christmas Season

Many things are on my heart and mind and it is all in general very connected. We are at the time designated to celebrate God’s birth, His incarnation. The focus is on family and sharing love through gifts and fellowship. For me this time, this season is strange. Currently am moving in and out of feeling my own pain and connecting with the pain of those around me. Currently my brother and his family is in town. It is uplifting to spend time with them, knowing that they have come through a tough time with the death of my sister-in-laws mother from breast cancer and their issues with dealing with her father. They also are caring for their son, Anant, who embodies a joyful creativity even at four going on five years old. All this is rather normal. Here are the things that have gone to make this season strange.

If you are a follower of this blog you know that the central portion of the strangeness is the health of Janie Blake. When Cancer returned a few years ago, she reported having a word from God, “you shall live and not die.” Then she went on to engage the battle and appeared clear of cancer cells, only to have them reform to the point where her very life is in jeopardy. It was a shock hearing the news back in mid-October and even more shocking the rapid degradation of her health. Today is first I have seen her since stopping by to help the clean in preparation for her brother’s visit. The sight was heart breaking. For I really appreciate how God has used Janie in my life and the life of those I love. Yet, what God’s sees is even beyond what I see. He knows His will and His plan. He is always faithful to what He promises our job is to surrender no matter how things look. It means letting go of our will for His. He can heal. He can restore. He is the one that makes all things new. We submit to Him alone. I really want Janie around, but that is up to God alone. There is life here and greater life in His presence.

Janie’s health is not the only aspect of the strangeness of this year. There is my mother’s ongoing vision loss and going through a process of learning. She deals each day with great pain and loss while focusing on learning how to function without depending on vision. My mother has endured and survived through a lot of suffering in her lifetime. Now she faces this challenge. Yet, I know God is using this to strengthen her and use her in the lives of others. He has given her special moments one of which will eventually share on this blog, as it likely connects to all that has been going on. Now, my mom’s vision loss is nothing new. It has been ongoing. But it is one more dynamic to the strangeness of this year.

Now not all that is going on is dealing with health and illness. For my wife has been going through and interview process for a potential promotion to service manager. My wife really does posses natural talents that would make her a great manager. Her prayer has been for those interviewing her to see what God wants them to see in her. Her heart she simply wants whomever they promote to be someone that will build and strengthen the team. We know it is in God’s hands and the promotion would be a great blessing to us. As I am writing this, in my mind the elevation of Daniel standing out over all others in Babylon would fit, if that is God’s will for Liz. We simply await the answer, hoping one thing but surrendering to whatever the outcome.

In my own life, still am working through matters of reluctance and holding self back. Yet, my workload is increasing and there are things on the horizon, yet many obstacles still stand with my-self being one of the obstacles. There is the ongoing question as get busier whether I can take on more or how can I find ways to improve all together. There are lessons learned as always in this process. The key principle to all here is coming back to surrender. There is much we cannot see in terms of what is ahead. Some like my mother have to learn to operate without sight. My stepmother appears quickly headed to death. My brother and his family already faced loss, may face more, are loving and building up their adopted child who is God has made as one who is joyfully creative in the midst.

So it is a strange season, this year. There is hope of seeing God give blessings and doing amazing things. There is the need to move beyond the visible. Ultimately, it is surrender to God regardless of the outcomes, walking not by our sight, but depending on Him alone. For He alone is the Rock. He alone is our safety. By Him alone to we stay or go. By Him alone do we rise or fall. He is the one who gives life or takes it. Yes, our choices and actions play a role we can walk His path and walk his way or go our own. One leads to life, one to death. God allows us our choices and then simply calls for surrender and walk the way He leads even if it seems impossible. There will be barriers from inside and outside. We want to make everything about us, but it is always about God and His glory and purpose which ultimately is to show and reflect His love in pain, in sorrow, in struggle, in fear, in reluctance, in anger, in pain, in joy, in blessing, in hope and so on which is all in His life in us.

Video Selection: Podcast Greg Hensel Sermon Ephesians 5:15-20 Diamond in the Rough

The following is a Podcast sermon from a friend  who is a missionary. The sermon really does a good job of describing dependence on God and Holy Spirit inspired worship. So take some time and listen to the sermon.  Feel free to post comments.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Passion Week Musings: The Last Passover Supper

After the Olivet discourse the events documented in the Gospel’s really focuses on events of preparation leading up to the Last Supper which was a Passover meal.   Prior to that meal there are two other significant documented events.  Jesus was anointed with perfume by some woman, which Jesus described as his being prepared for burial.  During this same time the other event described in the Gospels is Judas making a deal with the religious leaders to betray Jesus.   Up until the last Supper all the tensions were mounting and the crescendo was building.   As Jesus spent time preparing both himself and his disciples for what is coming there had to be an emotional storm building in Jesus.  The anticipation of what was to come had to far more intense than anything any of us have gone through.  Tomorrows post on the Garden will touch a bit more on the emotions of Jesus.  Here the focus is really about the preparation and Jesus pointing ahead and trying to prepare his disciples for what is to come while the pieces were moving and being set into play.  Jesus focus during that last Passover supper was all on what is to come.

After all the pieces were in place, Jesus and the disciples had the Passover meal and celebration. Now if the reader is not aware, the Passover points to the night Israel was delivered from Egypt with the tenth plague, the death of the 1st born males in Egypt.  There was instruction to sacrifice a lamb and place the blood on the doorpost, resulting in being spared having the first born killed.   The Passover meal reminds us of sin and bondage and points to God’s once and for all sacrifice in Jesus.  Jesus declared himself the “Afikomen” when he directed his disciples to eat the bread. He declared himself “salvation” when he drank the third cup.  He really told the disciples about what was coming and it would be for salvation.   Jesus also spent time giving the disciples words to remember and a significant object lesson of serving and loving one another.  His actions were all about preparing the disciples for what was ahead, even though he knew they did not understand that they could not possibly understand. When Judas left the meal, after likely dipping the parsley at the same time as Jesus and announced as a betrayer, imagine the confusion and shocked the disciples experienced.  I can imagine the indignation the disciples felt as they were told that they would all falter.  Imagine after the resurrection, the disciples talking and discussion the events of the Last Passover Supper with a new grasp and understanding that had failed them in the midst.  The point that really hits home today thinking about this, is the Jesus and the Father both spent a lot of time preparing the disciples and those around for the events that were to unfold.  The essential point here is God does prepare us for what is ahead. 

Now our being prepared is not something that we are fully aware of at the time.  We like the disciples may be confused and lost in the midst.  We wonder the who, what, when, where, and whys of things we do not grasp. Yet, God does go before us and prepare us. God is in control.  Sometimes many pieces come into play that converge, but God is not caught off guard or surprised by anything and he gives us what He knows we need, which is often different than what we think we need.  Jesus spent personal time with his disciples during an important and meaningful time to prepare them for what is to come.  As what was to come in the next few days was an apex of darkness before the point of victory occurred.  The time leading up to the Last Passover supper was all about preparation,  it was the “middle” part of the story that at the time seems insignificant and can even get  bogged down but really is the essential time as it was the time the pieces moved into place, the character moments established that build to the climax, which in the cause were the death and resurrection to come. 

In this day and age, when pieces and events seem to be moving us ever closer to the second coming, it is important to know that God has us undergoing times of preparation. Whatever we are doing and going through, it really serves to build us up and prepare us for what is yet to come.  God is working in each of our lives to give us the teaching, training, and growth needed for what is yet to come.   Each day is a day closer to Jesus return.  Just like the cross, the moment of victory will be preceded by a time of great darkness and the appearance of victorious darkness. Yet, Jesus is coming and Victory is assured.  God has prepared us for what is ahead and will go before us and lead the way.  We just need to stay the course, be sober, be alert, and remain awake.  God is and will test all claiming to be in the faith. Lines are being drawn, pieces are moving, and we are nearing the end.  It is both a terrible and glorious day.  But worry and fear not, because it is God that prepares our hearts and minds, it is he that enables us to stand firm.  Just seek and pursue truly loving God and others, walk the path God directs and points you and trust that God will prepare you for what is ahead.

Joy in True Service

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. God gifts each of us gifts for the building up of others. This gifting is to touch both those who are in God’s kingdom, and those still lost in darkness.  He has made each of unique in terms of personality and through the Holy Spirit gives gifts beyond what He given us naturally.  Today, the reflection is that there is true joy in serving God in accordance with how He has gifted you.  It is evident when my wife is playing the piano and worshiping God.  It is displayed in my life when sitting with someone and helping them work through the difficulties of the heart and soul.  Serving God in accordance with His giftings brings joy.  The joy that comes, comes not from the gifting or the service. The joy comes from using what God has given to love and build up others.

Now perhaps you are reading this and it is not yet clear to you what God has called you to do or the ways he has gifted you.  A good starting point is finding the points of service that when you act in love and serving others you have an inner sense of joy. The joy may even be beyond what makes sense. For some it may be serving the hurting in lost in Haiti, for others it is giving and meeting needs, for others it is teaching God’s word.   God has created each differently and when we are operating true to how God created us, there will be joy in the spirit.

Kingdom building: Who you building for?

Serving and wanting to serve God is a good thing, right?  Overall the answer is yes, however, it is an area where we are all ripe to be tempted and deceived.  It is real easy to get caught up in our own kingdom in the name of serving God. 

Ways we can get caught up in seeking after own kingdom. We can desire God, desire to serve God, desire to reach out to others, but we can let ourselves corrupt matters. Each of us can easily seek to serve God through means of the lust of flesh, lust of eyes, or pride of life. We can easily move from service to and for God, to meeting our own needs for love, significance, and security. There is even a very popular church program around being “purpose-driven” which definitely can move in the direction of self oriented and direct service. 

Now if you look at scripture, what God want most from each of us is surrender. Take a look at Romans 12: 1-2 (NIV): 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 

We are called to daily surrender. We are called not to conform to the pattern of this world.  What is the pattern of this world? Seeking self-satisfaction or engaging in need satisfaction. We are called to change our thinking not to ourselves and satisfactions of our wants and needs but focus on God and the Gospel through the Word of God.

There are several ways seeking our own wants, needs and engage in building our own kingdom occur.  One particular way we can shift to building our own kingdom for God is becoming obsessed over a being used in a particular way. Some people may in fact approach God and ask “make me a prophet,” “or make me a healer,” or “make me a revivalist.” God can certainly meet those prayers. But it can turn into an obsession of a particular gifting of God with loss of site of other gifts.  And if God hasn’t called or chosen the person for the particular gifting then it clearly can be something that moves into satisfying own selfish desires or needs.  For example, think of a really bad singer or dancer on any audition for popular reality television shows, the ones that have no talent but are convinced they have talent, sometimes we can be just like them. We can be so enamored with ways we want to be used that we lose site of what God really wants to do in our lives. 

The Bible states in Romans 12:3-9 (NIV): 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

            The passage clearly indicates that God gives gifts as He will.  We are each created differently and He chooses to give us different gifts. Rather then asking God for a particular gift, it is better to ask God to gift use as He will. If there is a desire on the heart, bring it before God in submission and ask Him to reveal to you what His will and gifts are.  Accept the ways God has gifted you and learn to walk in those gifts in surrender. 

            It is important not to forget 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (NIV): 12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

            We all have roles within the body. We are all a cell in the body of Christ. However, God made us a particular cell and each cell serves a distinct purpose.  The cell doesn’t determine it’s role, it is determined by the creator. Science has even shown this with the discovery of stem cells, which do not take on their function until given the instructions. Per the passage, we receive entrance into the body through the Holy Spirit, and as such it is when we receive our instructions and placement in the body.  True we have gifts and natural skills at birth again given by God, and God takes those things into account in placing us within our place in the body of Christ. God as made us and arranged us as He wants, it is not about what we want. 

            In the passage it is clear another way we each can lose focus, which is to get jealous or envious of another persons gifting or place in the body. We can easily focus on people who God gifts to heal, or God uses to raise someone from the dead, or God uses to harvest many souls into the Kingdom of God.   And according to the above passage, the parts of the body with “dishonor” are given greater honor with God. Yet, we often look at the “attention” getting gifts or the ones that demonstrate power or knowledge.  So think of whomever in the body of Christ that draws no honor, perhaps a handicapped person who simply prays and worships God because of no capacity to anything else. In God’s kingdom and perspective, such a person has a higher honor.  We at times envy and desire things that externally look exciting or note worthy, yet with God it is what happens that goes unnoticed that has the higher honor, yet we don’t envy or desire such gifts.

            When we lose focus on serving God’s kingdom, and view from our own perspective another way to easily get wrapped up in serving self is when it does become about building our own Kingdom’s literally. It becomes about wanting to be a leader or gain power and influence in the church.  Often times it can start out well meaning, wanting to reach others with the Gospel, build a church or ministry that will impact others. However, power is enticing and corrupting.  Once you have a vision of serving God suddenly amassing more power and influence becomes the priority.  The bible says some pretty specific things about leadership.

For example: James 3:1 (NIV):  1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. This passage clearly indicates that teaching and leadership results in greater judgment. It is not to be entered into lightly, for there is greater responsibility. As a leader a person is not just responsible for them selves but those that serve under them.

Also look at   Luke 14:7-14(NIV): 7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  The passage clearly demonstrates that we need to not seek honor, not seek to be someone considered important, but rather to humbly serve.  

We also need to consider what Jesus said “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35b NKJV) Jesus demonstrated this consistently. He demonstrated in the washing of the feet. He ultimately demonstrated this at the Cross.

            Now it is possible for us to not be seeking after power or leadership but rather get caught up in looking for external evidence of building the Kingdom of God. Looking for this external evidence can be a snare.  We can look for numbers or external manifestations and look to depend on them or rely on them and get caught up in building our own kingdom in the name of building God’s kingdom.  Things like attendance numbers, numbers of people coming forward at an alter call, numbers of small groups, numbers of programs, and so on. 

            We can get caught up in the numbers game because in our mind the numbers are what shows whether or not there is fruit.  However, numbers are simply numbers and God looks at things differently.  1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NKJV):11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.  This passage clear shows that what stand as good work and good fruit in the end is what passes through the fire.  What we do building our own kingdoms will burn and doesn’t count. So we really cannot get to excited about external appearances.

            Another good verse is 2 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NIV):12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you. This passage clearly shows that there are limits to pay attention to, that seeing the good that God does certainly can be commended, but when we start comparing to ourselves or others we lose focus and become unwise.  Numbers and externals are really about what makes us feel better. It makes us feel like something is accomplished, but often what God really accomplishes is unseen and unnumbered.

            Another easy way to get caught up in building our own kingdom versus the Kingdom of God is when we get caught up in a particular plan or program. It is real easy to get caught in the method, versus the Kingdom.  There are ways and tools and programs that God has used in varied locations. However, it is a mistake to think that any plan or program or formula will work in all cases with all people.  In the American church, the focus on programs as even gone to the point where there are prepackaged sermons and sermon series.  Now, I can see the value in passing on particular series of messages that God has used. But we make a mistake if we think that God interacts and works with all people in that same manner. 

Jesus himself did not always work in the same way or manner.  He met individuals at there need, at their level of faith.  He met them where they were at and always challenged them to go beyond and enter the Kingdom of God.

            We can have the most thought out plans and programs and God may not be in it.  Plans and programs are not bad, it is all a matter of what God is doing and how he is acting. For example, Paul had an excellent plan and spoke with all wisdom to the Greeks, yet it went no where. God’s wisdom and plans running contrary to human wisdom is evident in 1 Corinthians 1:17-21(NIV):17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

            Building the Kingdom of God always comes down to what God is doing. He may not make sense to human eyes and human wisdom, but God’s path is clear.  Again programs and plans can work, or the may be works that burn in the fire.  The important thing for each of is to attend to what God is doing.  We need to get beyond ourselves and consider each individual as Jesus did in the Gospels.  A passage clearly outlining this principle is found in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV):19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

            Paul indicated that we have to meet people where they are at, and share the Gospel at a level they understand.  We also can get so caught up not only in programs or plans but our own ideas and agendas about God as well. We each have experience with God, God shows us different things and we can often apply broad brush applications of our experience and demand the same of all, forgetting that God made us each unique.  The Bible is filled with both God and Jesus working in different ways in people’s lives. However, we can instead of continually learning and testing all things, become convinced of an aspect of God and expect all to understand the same way and all that vary are wrong.  We forget the admonition of Romans 12:3(NIV):For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Instead we get grand thoughts that every one needs to understand as we do. We can fail to listen and instead speak at and judge others. 

            However, the fact that we operate often from our own understanding and ideas doesn’t eliminate the fact that truth about God has been revealed through the Word of God.  However we understand God it needs to be based on the scripture.   As it says in 1 Corinthians 13:12(NIV): 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  The passage clearly show that our understanding is limited, partial.  Yet God has revealed Himself and His truth through the Word of God. It is by studying the Word of God that in this life we can know more in full.  We need to follow Proverbs 3:5:6:  5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. and not be like the watchmen of Israel described in Isaiah 56:11(NIV): 11 They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain.

            When we don’t understand something about God we need to seek him and seek the truth in the Word of God.  The Word of God is the foundation as seen in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17(NIV): 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.   

            God does promises that He will give understanding for example in Proverbs 2:1-51 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. As well as in James 1:5 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  We need to ask God and seek the truth.  Our understanding is in part but God will give us greater understand as we ask and as we set aside our own understanding.

            Now I could identify several other ways the church commonly seeks to build kingdoms in the name of Jesus but not truly building the Kingdom of God.  Building the Kingdom of God is about surrender to the King of Kings.  The bible does give some clear guidelines for building the Kingdom of God. Clear ways to walk in.  1 Corinthians 13 is a good start point. Evidence of building the Kingdom of God is rooted in love. But not only is the kingdom rooted and driven in love. It is the driving factor. It is for love of others that we seek to draw others into the Kingdom of God as shown in 2 Corinthians 5: 12-15(NIV): 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. How that kind of love looks is further expanded in other scripture as in Romans 12: 9-21(NIV): 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Now of course it would be worthwhile to examine each particular aspect of what sincere love looks like in practice but for now will leave the Word of God speak for itself.

            The central point of this article is that we easily, each of us, can get caught up in building kingdoms that are not the Kingdom of God and do so in the name of building the Kingdom of God.  Building the Kingdom of God  starts with surrender and is driven by love.  We each need to examine ourselves and our actions and our theology and our programs and whatever we do in the name of Jesus and see if there is anything that is of self, anything that is not about surrender and not driven by love.  Again much more can be written on this topic and will write other articles fleshing out varied aspects of building the Kingdom of God but it is time for me to draw this article to a close.  I will close this article with another set of lyrics from Daniel Amos that I think makes an appropriate point.  I also recommend reading a parable at http://www.sheeptrax.com/articles/main.html that also makes and appropriate point.  So now until my next article enjoy the lyrics to I Didn’t Build it for Me.

 

I Didn’t Build it for Me

from the album “Doppelgänger”

Words and Music by Terry Taylor and Jerry Chamberlain
©1983 Twitchen Vibes/ Paragon Music Corp. ASCAP

You think I built this for me?
You think I built this for me?
This isn’t mine- it’s yours, it’s really for you
I didn’t build it for me

I don’t have the time to enjoy it
I’m asked why I don’t use the facilities
I don’t have the slightest inclination
I won’t consider it, I didn’t build it for me…

There’s a plaque in the hall
My name’s on the wall
And a statue of my family
It wasn’t my decision
It was all in a vision
I didn’t build it, I never would have built it
I really didn’t build it for me…

One man stood alone
One man did succeed
I’m the man, I’m the one
I didn’t build it for me
One man stood alone
Numero uno
I’m the man, I’m the one
I’m the man of the hour!…

I used to say, “Why doesn’t somebody do something about this?”
I cried, “Oh, what about this need?”
Then a voice said, “You do something about it”
I said, “Oh woooow you mean me?”…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Citizenship…

Well, today 7/16/8 is an important day for my family. In particular, it is a very important day for my wife. Today, she became a citizen of the United States of America. She is “proud to be an American” even if sometimes she finds what Americans say and do to be stupid sometimes. During her swearing in ceremony today there were 464 other new Americans taking the oath of citizenship, each person having a different story and journey to this road. There were people from many, many prior nations. It is an amazing thing about this country of immigrants constantly blending. My wife’s story is not one of struggle, but of hard work and answered prayers. Others have struggles of financial difficulties, assorted hardships, and some needed asylum. For each person the day was special, each in relation to their own stories.
So this being said, my guess is if you have followed my blog, you may be anticipating my turning attention to some spiritual lesson or use this to talk about Christianity. If so you would be right. A central tenet of Christianity is that we are citizens of heaven. Philippians 3:20(NIV) : “20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The ultimate allegiance to all Christian believers is to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. A person agrees to enter the Kingdom of Heaven when they accept the gift provided in Yeshua the Messiah and turn from our previous allegiance to our own kingdom. The picture of immigration is a good metaphor what happens when someone becomes a Christian and becomes a citizen of heaven.
In hearing the oath of citizenship, I was reminded of three essential principles every citizen needs to follow. Submit to authorities, defend the country, and be willing to serve as required. I believe the same is true for the Citizens of Heaven. We are above all to submit to Jesus. We are to follow what Jesus commands. The essential core of the commands of the kingdom are to love God with the entirety of our being and to love our neighbors are our self. These two commands sum up all the Torah and Prophets. It is following the Word of God. Letting it shine the light before us on the correct ways to walk and as such, wherever a citizen of heaven resides, they are to submit to those in authority over them, even if they act in ways unbefitting said submission, with the exception of being asked to violate the Word of God. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all exemplified that very principle. We are to follow their examples.
We are also to defend the Kingdom of Heaven. Such defense is not a matter of worldly warfare with swords and guns and revolution. The defense of the kingdom of even resides in prayer, in speaking truth and confronting lies, and in loving others. The truth that we speak and use is that of the Word of God. Our defense is our position as a citizen in heaven and all the benefits and responsibilities that entails. So we each have responsibilities in the spiritual war against evil and for the souls of mankind. Each citizen of heaven has a role to play. Some are in support, some are on the front lines, it all varies per the gifts and positions we were given in the Kingdom of Heaven.
We are also to serve the Kingdom of Heaven as required. If God says go, we need to go. We have to be willing to do anything and go anywhere. We are to serve other citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. We are not to sit by and collect the benefits of the Kingdom of Heaven and not serve as requested.
These are simple things, yet there are some out there that have a different concept of being citizens of the heaven and see it as our responsibility to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. No while we are to enlarge the kingdom though making disciples as we are going and following our directions in service to the King of Kings . It is not about establishing political power. It is not about restoring all that is evil to good. Jesus will do that when he returns. Rather we are to submit, defend, and serve.
In tying things all together, each citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven does have a different story. No story or picture of how we became citizens will be alike. The process is generally the same, but plays out differently in each life and story. We all have different roles in the kingdom of heaven which follows the essential responsibilities of submission, defense, and service. As always if anyone has anything to say or thinks I am off on any point, or has any questions, please leave a comment. Also another trend is I sometimes will just simply leave some Christian lyrics for thought as I close the commentary. This time I will leave you with Petra’s Not of This World.

Petra Not Of This World lyrics
Words and music by Bob Hartman
Based on 2 Peter 2:11, John 15:18-19, John 16:33, Matthew 16:18, John 14:3
We are pilgrims in a strange land
We are so far from our homeland
With each passing day it seems so clear
This world will never want us here
We’re not welcome in this world of wrong
We are foreigners who don’t belong
(Chorus)
We are strangers, we are aliens
We are not of this world
We are envoys, we must tarry
With this message we must carry
There’s so much to do before we leave
With so many more who may believe
Our mission here can never fail
And the gates of hell will not prevail
Jesus told us men would hate us
But we must be of good cheer
He has overcome this world of darkness
And soon we will depart from here
Petra Not Of This World lyrics