The Big Spill… Foolishness is NOT listening to Jesus

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One of the most important teachings of Jesus for Kingdom Growth must be Matthew 9:17 “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins…”

After almost 15 years of ministry, I have to say that I am so often foolish because, even thought I personally have made wine and know exactly what Jesus is talking about, I still so often do not apply Jesus’ exhortation. I try to “do” ministry and life in my old way and expect it to work! And… I am actually surprised when in trying to advance my life through self effort, mixing following Jesus with worldly methods, and trying to grow people to follow Jesus without really doing things the way Jesus tell us. My life and ministry become a Big Spill. How foolish!

There are so many ways Jesus wants to help us…

We must jettison Pharisaical-traditionalism-legalistic hearts and lives for grace, mercy, and justice.

We must seek to serve and not selfishly be served.

We must give and find blessing in giving rather than constantly seeking for ourself.

We must love others as ourselves.

We must seek to grow spiritually by following, obeying, and living in the grace of Jesus.

We must seek to grow the Church through relational encouragement and prayer rather than fancy programs.

We must first and foremost seek to be fully devoted followers of Jesus who seek to help others follow Jesus (classic discipleship) rather than synergistic spirituality.

We must… as I am attempting to do in this blog, Repent and Follow Jesus from the depths of our hearts and so our souls will be supple with humility and grace to receive the expansion of the Kingdom of God and His life-giving presence.

Resting in God Alone

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Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.  Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.  (Psa 62:1 NIV)

Does my soul find rest?

If you’re anything like me these words have always sounded nice, but what does this actually look like? The picture David gives is one of finding rest in a unique place of safety, a “rock” or “fortress.” In Israel these kinds of places can be found on mountain tops, caves, and high rock formations. The problem is that in order to use these safe-houses you have to go up. The picture is going up to God spiritually and resting in Him alone, just the way one would go up to the fortress and stay there for safety from their enemies.

In all honesty, our biggest problem is that we do not go up, rather we stay down.  We stay down in all sorts of ways.  It is easier that way, but it really isn’t safe and it certainly doesn’t offer us any added security.  In order to have a soul that waits or finds rest in God we have to go to God, alone.  Staying down and trying to fight our battles alone simply will not do.  We often try to find help not in God alone but in something else, or we try to add a bit of God at the ground level or on the side.  We must leave behind our own sources of help and go to God alone.   Spiritually we need to go up to God and enter into His presence and wait.

The key is that in Christ we actually have access to God’s throne 24/7 but we must spiritually avail ourselves to Him.  We must spiritually enter God’s presence and allow Him to be our rock and fortress.  My desire is that we would hear the hope offered to us in Ps. 62 and respond by going up to God.

 

Be the Bee

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My Dad is a bee keeper in his “retirement.” He has taught me a great deal about honey bees and how they function.

Each bee has a defined identity and role in the colony. There are drones, workers, and a queen. They all work together and each does its part. If the colony is working together in balance they will thrive.  If they are out of balance or don’t do the job of their identity, however, the colony will die.

He also showed me that an individual honey bee isn’t really “alive,” but rather all the bees together as a whole unified colony are alive! This blew my mind. If a bee flies away from the colony it will die alone.

I started thinking how amazing and unique bees are compared to “independent” humans, and then I stopped and realized there is much to be learned from the bees. What child can survive without a mother and a father? What teenager can grow, mature, and be launched into the world to start their own family without the incredible support of parents? How healthy is anyone without friends and family? Would we die without them? Moreover, if I need them, don’t they also need me? What is my part in our interconnectedness? This makes us all very important and interdependent… maybe we are more like bees than I thought!

In Scripture we are told over and over that we ARE the Body of Christ. Like a body, Christ cannot function with just one Christ-follower. Christ also has given the Holy Spirit to give each person a gift(s) to serve the whole body like parts. So often today in our independence-focused-world we forget how essential and needed each person is and how much we actually need each other. Again I thought, maybe we are more like bees!

So I say don’t just be yourself, Be the Bee!
Recognize your unique identity in Christ and how important you are… not individualistically but for His whole Body!
Operate with a mindset to live interdependently and care for others in your unique gifting – they need you and you need them. It’s the way God made us.

Connecting the Dots… One Step of Faith at a Time

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This week we looked at the book of Ruth. In it we discovered that Ruth came to the end of herself and her plan, and at the same time took a step of faith and trusted God and His plan (1:16-17). God called her to take one step at a time and trust Him with the big picture, like a dot-to-dot. She couldn’t see the whole picture but only the next dot…

The life of faith is really this way: we trust God each step of the way and put one foot in front of the other, daily, as we see God’s plan unfolding before us. We can’t see the whole picture but, like Ruth, God has a plan to save us, provide for us, and to bring about a much bigger picture of His help than we could ever imagine.

 

How could Ruth know that if she just got up, worked hard, and left the rest to God, He would bring her a husband and children? (2:2-3)

How could Ruth know that she would be the great grandmother of King David? (4:17)

How could Ruth know that her faith and just walking a dot-to-dot life would ultimately lead to the picture of Jesus, the King of Kings!

 

Ruth really isn’t any different from you and me. We are just call to live our lives dot-to-dot. We aren’t called to figure it all out… just take the next step in faith and see what picture God paints in His plan. It is always bigger and richer than we ever dreamed…

 

What’s your next step? What’s your next dot? Take that step in the assurance that God has a big and beautiful picture for you that will ultimately bless others as well!

Did you know that seeds actually grow?

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This spring we had a chance to plant corn seeds with a farmer in our community. While we were planting the seeds he seemed to give great attention to the depth of the seed in the soil, the amount of fertilizer being used, and even the location the seeds were planted. Finally, after all the seeds were planted we looked at the field together and wondered… Will the seeds grow?

Five years ago I sat down with a friend who had all but given up on the Faith. I tried to plant some gospel seeds in him.  I kept thinking… Is this too weak or am I being too aggressive?                – planting too deep or too shallow.  Was I saying the right things? – planting in the right location.  Finally, when we parted ways I even tried to give some final words of encouragement in an attempt at fertilizer.  After the conversation was over I looked at him and wondered… Will the seeds grow?

I doubted.

Many of us wonder at the viability and prospects of planting gospel seeds and doing ministry.  We think… Will any of these seeds every grow?  We try so hard to plant the seed right, in our attempt to make their growth maximally viable. We look at the people we are ministering to in Jesus Name like I looked at my spiritually dead friend or the brown soil field and doubt.  We have a hard time remembering and believing that seeds grow, not because of our power but because of God.  God makes seed grow and God makes the labor of planting seeds never in vain and always viable in His power.

We are reminded by the Apostle Paul, ” I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.  For we are co-workers in God’s service…” (1Co 3:6-9 NIV)

What is your seed sowing ministry?  Business?  Education? Working with youth and children?  Intercessory prayer?  Discipleship and small groups?  Parenting?  Missional communities?  Remember that God will make your seeds grow.  Don’t give up.  Trust in faith that the one who made seeds to grow will do just that in the field in which you labor.  It may not happen right away, but be sure of this… seeds grow!

 

Can you land the Airplane of Faith?

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My favorite sound in the world is the sound of an airplane touching down on the runway after a successful fight. Can you hear it? You see a tiny puff of smoke and the sound goes, “irrrrt!” That sound represents all the training of the pilot put into action. You see, it is not enough for the pilot to have an academic knowledge flying, nor is it even enough for the pilot to practically know the proper procedures to land, but he must also actually, or operationally, land the plane!

The levels of academic, practical, and operational knowledge are very important to the Christian as we listen to God’s Word and seek to obey Him in the Spirit of Jesus. Entire generations have been taught about “correct” theology and how to apply it, but have never in fact done so. Rather than focus, as God does, on living out the faith, they argue about doctrine and sometimes never seem to live it out. It is almost like they are pilots who can’t seem to land the plane. This is what is known as dead orthodoxy. Christians can argue all day about correct theology, we can even claim to know how to live, but until we actually live out the gospel our faith has not become operational.  We haven’t landed the plane!  We need our faith to be not just practical but operational.

Operational theology is what is happening at the level of heart, what one really believes in the moment in time, and what we are passively or proactively acting on. So often we miss this crucial step in our spiritual lives.  It just isn’t enough to talk about what we believe, nor even how to live, we must also actually live it out!

 

The Arrogance of Mutually Assured Destruction in the Church

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During the Cold War between the United States of America and the former Soviet Union, the build up of nuclear arms became a standard practice. If one side built a weapon of mass destruction the other side countered with ever increasing numbers of more powerful and destructive weapons. The idea behind this proliferation was simple: if both sides knew that the other had weapons that could ensure total destruction, it functioned as a deterrent to go to war. This became known as the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). As long as either side continued to equal or escalate armaments “peace” was maintained through “strength.”

Looking back on the Cold War, there was a kind of arrogance in this “peace.” Each side wanted to show that it was better and more powerful than the other, and if war would break out, victory would be assured in the destruction of the enemy. Ironically as long as victory over the other was the implicit goal, no peace was achieved!

How often in the church do we seem to practice an arrogant doctrine of MAD, seeking for personal or theological victory rather than peace and reconciliation? How often would we prefer a build up of arms rather than humility and grace? How often do we promote a Cold War between doctrinal camps, between rival theological perspectives, even between members of our own churches and families rather than make every effort to keep the victory of unity and peace already won in Jesus? (Eph. 4:3, Col. 2:15) The gospel calls us to unity and peace, but this can only be achieved when we put down our arms and in the humility demonstrated by God in Jesus Christ reach out to our “enemies.” This can only be done when we give up our own victory and arrogant plans and embrace the humility of Christ found in the gospel. Without this self-denial and sacrificial step, there is no chance of peace and unity. However, with the humility of Jesus we can put down our armaments, repent, forgive, and find peace.