Moving On [A Prophetic Vision for GR]

Priming the Pump

in these last days…

“’AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS (Acts 2.17 NASB).’”

 

a Friday morning run on the West-Side…

Yesterday, after a very busy week, I really wanted to have a nice relaxing “pajama Friday” working from my home office.  But, I’ve also recently been making a genuine effort to get back into working out regularly.  Because, (though I didn’t believe it at 30) what everyone says about it being harder and harder to loose weight as you get older is painfully true.  So, I (somewhat conflicted) suited up for a morning jog, turned on the David Crowder Band’s “Essential Collection”, started my Run Keeper app, and hit the sidewalk.

It’s strangely easy to forget how beautiful a morning run can be, with the sun coming up, the music turned up loud, and no one but me and Jesus.  As I was pounding along, I remembered one day in the Summer of 2012 as we were preparing to plant DCC.  Somehow or other, I had gotten it in my heart that God would “give me” anywhere the soul of my foot would tread and that he was looking to “expand my territory”.  (Incidentally, I’m using quotation marks because I need you to understand that some of this terminology is metaphoric and that I don’t actually believe that anything is MINE or belongs to me.  I mean to say merely that God was speaking to me about expanding my personal influence and the vision that I had for the platforms in which he’s placed me.  But, I digress…)  At the time, I was in much better shape than I am now and was used to running 5 miles at a time with ease.  So, I suited up, turned on the music, started my Run Keeper app, and set out to run a circuit which touched the entire Grand River valley from Covell to Union.  I did make it – barely.  And, I think at the end my GPS had clocked about 9+ miles.  But, weary as I was, rubber legs and all, I was resolved that God would expand my personal influence to impact the entire city.

Fast forward to now, He has done just that.  Though, in a far different way than I ever expected and in a greater capacity than I ever could have calculated.  I’m so blessed to be serving the family of DCC alongside such a great leadership team.  And, I’m constantly amazed at the platform that the Lord has given us together to impact the city of Grand Rapids and beyond.  Now, it may sound like I am thinking highly of myself or whatever.  But, criticize, mock and scoff if you’d like.  I’ve just gotten over the pretense of the false humility which tries to downplay the great and amazing things that God wants to do in us and through us.  And I would love to see that wave of freedom grip the body of Christ in GR, as it would unshackle us from the crippling bonds of the religious pride which tries to say that we’re insignificant and unimportant.

God says you’re significant and important.  So much so, that He made you a participator in His nature and a partner in His Kingdom agenda.

 

a prophetic vision for GR…

Anyway, let’s get back to Friday’s run.  As I was coming down Lake Michigan Drive from Covell, my heart was just pouring out worship to the Lord.  I was running down the hill, punching in the air, leaping with my arms up, pointing and shouting along with the lyrics of the song playing in my ears.  (I must have looked like such a fool.  But then, respectability is something I gave up some time ago.)  Then all of a sudden, as the trees cleared and I saw downtown in the fresh sunlight with the haze of the morning clinging to the tops of the buildings, the glory of the Lord overwhelmed me and took my breath away (which can be kind of a problem when you’re 50 pounds overweight and trying to run).  I felt as though the Lord was telling me that the haze represented His glory and in that moment, He confirmed the deep longing of my heart – that He was bringing revival to the city of Grand Rapids.  But more so, that this revival will send ripples which will reach and impact the State and beyond.  I don’t know if I was crying, gasping for breath, both, or what else – but, wow – what a great moment.

 

moving on…

This week, Jamie and I sold our home and bought a new one.  We’re excited to move, excited for more space and a different setting.  We’re excited to start a new chapter in our family’s history and to write new memories on the pages of our life’s story.  But along with all of that, I believe that our move is representative of a shift in our spiritual vision – a shift which broadens the scope of our impact and allows us to think and dream bigger than we ever have before.  The further I get down this journey, the more aware I become of the vital importance of our willingness and participation with the Lord’s agenda.  For us now, it’s important that we’re willing to be moved, uprooted, and replanted, both physically and spiritually.  But more so, it’s vastly important that we’re willing to get over ourselves and our feeble understanding of the amazing impact that the Lord wants to achieve in us and through us.

So, to you my friends I say,

Let us continue to rise up and meet the high calling that the Lord has placed on us to be Salt and Light – agents of transformation bringing revival to this city and beyond.  But remember, that revival begins in us first.  We are merely carriers, vessels of the LIFE of Jesus and the glory of God.  He is calling us align our hearts with His.  And as such, the deeper we go in our personal transformation, the greater our Kingdom impact will be in the world around us.

[Powerful People] fear God not men

Priming the Pump

The will of man, unsubmitted to the will of God, IS the will of Satan.

“But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s (Matthew 16.23 NASB).’”

 

where is my agreement?

Throughout the recorded ministry of Christ on this earth, we see that He was constantly met with opposition to the will of God for Him, by Satan in the wilderness, by His friends (in the passage above), by the world around Him, and even by His own will in the garden of Gethsemane.  To me, one of the most remarkable things about Jesus is that He lived every day in perfect alignment with the heart and will of the Father.

This is the life that my heart longs for.  I desire deeply to have a heart aligned with the heart of my Father and to walk through this broken world with the LIFE of Christ pouring out of me, being a redemptive voice everywhere I go, salt and light, an agent of change through which God can bring about the transformation and realignment that He desires.

I do not want to walk in agreement with the purposes of man, let alone Satan.  And yet, according to Jesus in the passage above, the will of man, unsubmitted to the will of God, IS the will of Satan.  It’s rebellion.  Still, I find that often Jesus turns to me, saying, “Get behind me, Satan!  You’re a stumbling block to me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

 

God doesn’t do things my way.

As surprising as it is, God doesn’t always do things the way that I expect Him to.  Nor does He always do what I want Him to.  And yet, there is a common misconception in Christianity today that we have this duct tape, WD-40 Jesus who comes in to fix things that we don’t like.  That’s B.S.!

We have a King.  And He demands our allegiance every day.  Now, He is a good King and He gives good and perfect gifts (James 1.17).  But, let us not be confused.  He is no Genie in a bottle.  He’s not the can of fix-a-flat rolling around in the trunk just in case.  Furthermore, we can be assured that He is far less concerned about our earthly happiness than He is with His glory.  Sounds arrogant, right?  But, He’s not.  He’s actually the only One who deserves such glory.  So, He’s only after what is by nature His.  Furthermore, He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him, which means that He is constantly working all things for our good (Romans 8.28).  However, our concept of good doesn’t always match His.  In which case, I have to make a choice…

…I can submit to God or ask Him to submit to me.

 

alignment with God or ideas about God?

It’s important to note that our goal isn’t primarily agreeing with God’s will.  Our primary goal is agreement and alignment with God.  Obviously, in choosing to align ourselves with God, we will always choose His will.  And yet, this is an important distinction because, in my experience, we can be fooled into thinking that we’re choosing God when we’re merely choosing obedience to ideas about God, which is religion.  Think about it…

A person doesn’t ever have to talk to God or have any sort of relationship with Christ at all in order to look like a Christian.

“A beautiful saint may be a hindrance if he does not present Jesus Christ but only what Christ has done for him…we have to be more careful of our…relationship to Him than of any other thing, even obedience…the greater part of life is not conscious obedience but the maintenance of this relationship…”  – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

 

God has made His Church to be a spiritual POWERHOUSE of men and women who fear His name and walk in everyday submission to Him and alignment with Him, living out His will and purpose.  Yet, in order to become the POWERFUL PEOPLE that He’s made us to be, we must choose Him above all else…

Satan
the World
our closest friends
even ourselves

[Powerful People] Are Dead

Priming the Pump

dead to self, alive to Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2.20 NASB).”

I have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2.20)…
If you have died with Christ (Colossians 2.20)…
For you have died (Colossians 3.3)…
If (or since) we have died with Christ (Romans 6.8)…
If (or since) we have died with Him (2 Timothy 2.11)…

 

dead or alive.

Seems pretty clear right?  I’m dead.  And yet, often I find that it seems I am very much so alive; to my sin, to my own desires, to the things of this world…

Still I am convinced that the Scripture is true and that I belong to Christ.  I believe that I have been made alive in Him which can only mean that I have in fact fully and completely participated in the death of Christ.  Otherwise, I could not have been made alive and couldn’t possibly be participating in His life.  After all, what part can our Holy God have with sinful, fallen, rebellious men living in their sin, after their own desires and for the things of the world (the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life)?  None of course.  Then, it must be so that I have died to all of that and have been made alive to righteousness in Christ.

 

a deep longing.

So then, if I long (and believe me, I do) to live a life that is consistent with the FACT that the life flowing through me is, in fact, the life of Christ, then I must REALIZE, EMBRACE, and in all other ways LIVE CONGRUENT with the reality of my own death.  In doing so, I realize that while my life was previously held in bondage, I have now been wholly and completely freed from the bounds of SIN, SELF, and the WORLD.  Furthermore, since the life in me is the life of Christ, not only does it know no bondage, but it knows no boundaries at all, save one.

If I would live according to this TRUTH, I am certain that my life would look far different than it does presently.  Not to say that I never live according to this TRUTH, but that I am consciously aware that I am being called higher and deeper into this LIFE of Christ.  And as such, I must bow to the overwhelming reality that I am probably not where I should be and I am definitely not where I will be.  Yet, for me, this is by no means discouraging.  Rather, it is very encouraging, because I realize that I do not have to be good enough, strong enough, powerful enough, or any of that.  I just need to be dead.  Then, and only then, will His life flow through me such that I become the POWERFUL PERSON that He’s made me to be.

 

a spiritual powerhouse.

God has made His Church to be a spiritual POWERHOUSE of passion and fire for the King and His Kingdom.  Yet, in order to become the POWERFUL PEOPLE that He’s made us to be, we must realize that we are dead…

To SIN
To SELF
To the WORLD

[Powerful People] An Introduction

Priming the Pump

a conflict of interest.

“But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s (Matthew 16.23 NASB).’”

 

a question I’ve been asking.

What if my own self-interests and my desire to see them met literally create a stumbling block for Jesus?

Honestly, I don’t have much to say today.  Just that I can’t shake this looming question and the haunting reality that often times I supplant the Kingdom agenda with my own.  I know…the sovereignty of God…right…

…but as I’ve said many times before, though I KNOW that God is sovereign and can fulfill His will and purpose with me or without me.  I also KNOW that His heart’s desire is for me to partner with Him in the family business of the Kingdom.  In order to take that invitation seriously, I need to approach each sacramental moment with the thought that…
…if I don’t submit to the life of Christ in me and the will of God for the moment, there may never be another opportunity and this thing that God wants to bring about, may never happen.

In the non-profit world, we have what’s called a “conflict of interest policy.”  This is especially important given that we are being trusted to steward private money at no profit to ourselves.  As such, boards will often create a policy requiring those who have a conflict of interest on a certain matter to disclose it and even prohibiting conflicted parties from voting on the matter in question.  From there, the policy may include a written description as to how the group will manage the conflict moving forward.  I’ve been wondering today what the “conflict of interest policy” for the Kingdom looks like…

…probably something like this…

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in  the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2.20 NASB).”

 

facts.

  • dead men have no rights
  • dead men have no needs
  • dead men own nothing and control nothing

 

* Selah *

[Everyday Christians] three-dimensional LIFE

Priming the Pump

I’m VERY EXCITED to see the DCC family continue to press into the idea that our mission field is where ever the Lord has placed us.  We don’t need to get on a plane and fly or jump on a boat, rather we need to continue waking up to the reality that we are all living in a “foreign place”.  This world is not our home, we are citizens of a different Kingdom and according to God’s Word, we are already resident there, though we soujourn here.

As I’ve been meditating on this idea and spending time with the Lord it has occurred to me that the church spends a great deal of time, effort, and energy on making great sacrifices.  What I mean is that we are very focused on our worship, our upward expression and conversation with the Lord in His Presence.  This is as it should be and is a very important thing to stay focused on.  Yet, I think that if this is all that the Church is doing, it will become a hollow, empty edifice, a shallow shell, lacking the transformational influence that it ought to have.  Additionally, we spend a great deal of time, effort, and energy on our inward growth as believers (though I’d argue that the Church as a whole is far less focused on this than we should be).   Again, this is of vital importance and should never be neglected.  But, if we stop here, I must ask, what is the end goal?  At best, we will become a transformed people (progressively looking more and more like Jesus) spending time together in our little group, holding great meetings in which we seek the Presence of Lord and offer Him a glorious sacrifice of worship.  Sounds pretty good, right?  Yet, I think that we would be missing one very vital and integral piece of the Christ follower’s life…

“the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.” – Luke 19.10 (NASB)

 Micah 6.

 “What does the Lord require of you but (1) to do justice, (2) to love kindness, and (3) to walk humbly with your God?”  – Micah 6.8 (NASB)

Three-Dimensional LIFE. 

If you look closely here, the life that the Lord is calling us into is a Three-Dimensional LIFE

UPWARD

…to walk humbly with your God…

Meaning that you are rightly related to the Lord, living in the light of His presence, receiving His LIFE through worship, prayer, reading His Word, and other devotional disciplines.  The original Hebrew is phrased a bit differently here, and is literally translated, “to humble yourself to walk with your God.”  This means that we are living in a position of humility toward God, with a proper understanding of who He is and who we are in relationship to Him.  It is an individual posture as much as it is a corporate posture of receiving the LIFE of Christ in our midst and having an exchange with Him in His Presence.

INWARD

…to love kindness…

Meaning that you are living in the acceptance of His grace – the  Hebrew word here is chesed which is translated loving kindness in some places, mercy in others, but it is very close in concept to the New Testament term “grace”.  Again, this is a matter of posture in which we are allowing His LIFE to transform us inwardly, whether as individuals or a family.

OUTWARD

…to do justice…

Meaning that we are walking as a living representation of Jesus to those around us.  This starts at the most intimate levels of relationship but continues to hold true in every encounter, with every person, every day.  Again, positionally, remembering that we are made to be conduits of the LIFE of Christ, that “rivers of Living Water should be flowing from our bellies”…remember one thing about rivers…when they flood the landscape, they change it.

Today’s big idea. 

Are you living Three-Dimensionally? How are you allowing the TRANSFORMATIONAL LIFE of Jesus to flow TO YOU, IN YOU, and THROUGH YOU (as a conduit) to effect the world around you?  Are you living as a missionary?  Are you focused on seeking and saving that which is lost?

Creating a Culture of Disengagment

Priming the Pump

I’ve been asking the Lord lately, “how do we ENGAGE more people at DCC?”  This, in fact, was one of my main prayer points of conversation with the Lord and Jamie as we were on our “Sabbath rest” (sounds a lot more spiritual than vacation, right?) this past week.  As is His usual MO in my life, through this conversation (with Him and others) my very foundation of what “engagement” means and looks like is being tested and reshaped.  I realized this week, that I’ve always looked at engagement in the church as showing up to the meetings, serving in this ministry or that one, and being a faithful financial contributor.  Those who are really ENGAGED are the ones who are there every time the doors are open

…*long pause while I’m hit with a ton of bricks*…

So, really, my idea of engagement has been what I’m beginning to call an “attractionist model”.  What I mean is that my idea of getting people to engage in the church boils down to getting them to come to a place where we have meetings (the more the better), and then getting them to participate in ways which keep those meetings vibrant, viable, and entertaining.  However, this was NEVER Jesus’ model.  If fact, he was constantly pulling people out of that model and setting them free to the reality of true and living communion with God and one another.

Consider the “church” of the time…

the synagogue.

Jesus constantly went into the synagogue (the gathering of believers, the ecclesia as it’s referred to in the NT – same word is used for the Christian Church), His purpose being to teach.  In fact, we read in Luke 4 (as well as other places) that this was actually His custom.  Yet, when He did so, we wasn’t entertaining people or giving them a teaching with which to feel better or learn to live better lives.  In fact, in the chapter that I just mentioned (Luke 4), Jesus says things so inflammatory and polarizing that the group (the ecclesia) actually gets up and runs Him out of the synagogue.  From there, they run Him out of the city to a high hill which they fully intended to throw Him from.  Jesus, nonchalantly shakes that off and walks through their midst unscathed never to darken Nazareth’s door again (at least not in that way).

a vehicle.

See, we talk about our mission, and how we’re reaching the “un-churched” or the “de-churched” or the “(fill in the blank)-churched”…whatever… It seems though that our mission is about getting people into the church and teaching or re-acclimating them to what it means to be CHURCHED.  In the first century, Jesus was the only one in the whole culture who was NON-CHURCHED, meaning that, while He saw the gathering for what it was and recognized it’s value, He knew that it wasn’t the end, but instead a vehicle to the end.  The gathering isn’t the destination…it’s A VEHICLE TO THE DESTINATION.  Jesus didn’t need to be assimilated to their culture, or speak their language, or be accepted into their midst because the whole thing was intended to draw people to Him, to His culture, to His language…to communion with Him…

“Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will take you to the synagogue so that you can hear some great music, have an opportunity for your children to play foosball, and hear a teaching that will help you cope with life and be a better person.’  Immediately…”

Oh…wait…sorry…wrong translation…

“Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him…”  – Matthew 4.18-19 (NASB)

Now listen, this is in no way meant to undermine the importance of the local gathering of believers.  Trust me, I believe that this is VITALLY important, for communion with Christ and discipleship.  What I feel that the Lord is doing in me is clearing out more of the religious cobwebs from my soul and showing me what the church really is and what’s it’s intended purpose is.

For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst…Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  –Matthew 18.20, 28.19 (NASB)

some questions to consider.

Here are a few questions to ponder as you prepare your heart to gather with the Beloved tomorrow…

Is my local church a gathering and a community which facilitates opportunities for communion with the Living Christ and discipleship?

If not, what’s my part to play in helping it to become so?

Do I have a consumerist mentality toward church?

Or, am I focused on Jesus, on following Him and helping others to learn and grow as they follow Him?

Transactional or Relational [What is the Gospel]

Priming the Pump

‘This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent’.” – John 17.3 NASB

“…‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.  I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’.” – John 10.7-10 NASB

Why did Jesus come?

When we ask this question, many answers come to mind…

to take away our sins.
to remove our shame.
to heal all of our diseases.
to conquer death.
so that we could go to heaven.

These answers are all true. But honestly, I think that they barely scratch the surface of the Gospel.  It seems to me that often times in our Western minds we tend to focus on the TRANSACTIONAL elements of the Gospel message.  But, is that all there is to the glorious life of Jesus Christ?

Or, another answer that I heard recently…

to redeem mankind.

Again, true.  But, to say that Jesus came to redeem us implies that He came to purchase us back FROM something which further implies that He was ultimately after restoring us TO something.

But what did He come to restore us to?

holiness?
honor?
health?
life?
eternity with Him?

Yes.  Absolutely.  All of the above.  But, there’s so much more…

I am the door through which you enter unto salvation.  Knowing God and knowing Me IS eternal life. – JESUS

Relational vs. Transactional

Here’s what I’m trying to say…

When we reduce the Gospel to a mere transaction we sell it tragically short of it’s majesty, beauty, and incomprehensible glory.

The Gospel is a story of broken relationship.  It is a story of furious longing and violent love in which our Father stopped at nothing to purchase back His sons who had foolishly sold themselves into bondage and chosen a life of sin and shame.  It is a story of restoration to the relationship for which we were eternally created.

Think about it, when we read the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15, we would miss out horribly if we stopped at the fact that the father gave his lost son a new ring, a new robe, and new sandals for his feet.  There’s so much more to the story.  There’s the fact that he was waiting and watching.  There’s the running.  The embrace.  The father profusely kissing his son who, very likely smelled like pig dung.  Then, there’s the party.  I can imagine the prodigal son sitting at the table, next to his father.  I can’t imagine that he was all that focused on the ring, the robe, and the sandals at that moment.  But, I imagine that he just sat in wonder and amazement at this father that still was willing to call him son and still wanted to be in relationship with him after where he’d been and all that he’d done.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrews used a word commonly translated in English “to know”.  It is the ancient word “Yada” and it means to know intimately.  It’s not an academic knowledge or a cerebral attainment to a truth.  It’s not the ability to rightly disseminate fact from fiction or the strict adherence to right doctrine.  In fact, it’s the word that Moses chose when he first wrote down the historical account of Adam and Eve.  In the NASB translation of Genesis 4.1, we read that Adam “had relations” with his wife Eve, and she conceived.  The KJV says, “Adam knew his wife…”.  While, the NIV says, “Adam made love to his wife…”.  The word here in the Hebrew text is the word “Yada“.  It is the word that is used to describe Moses relationship with God when the Scriptures say that Moses knew God, face-to-face, as a man knows his friend.  It is the word that Solomon chose to use in Proverbs 3 when he instructed us to acknowlege God in all of our ways.

This, my friends, is the concept that Jesus had in mind in John 17.3 when He said…

‘This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent’.” – John 17.3 NASB

Today’s big idea.

Today, I encourage you to see Jesus as the door that He described Himself to be, to see that the Gospel is a story of restored relationship first.  There are transactional elements, yes.  But, when we make them paramount, we miss the main point.  We begin to believe that Jesus came to give us something, which essentially is true – but the “something” is Himself.  Let us rather seek His face rather than His hands.  For, it is in the light of His face that we behold the glory of the Gospel, and thereby reflect the reckless, extravagant love of the Father which transforms us, and re-images us to our eternal purpose in Christ – sons, stewards, and ambassadors.

[Kingdom Living] Know your Enemy

Priming the Pump

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba!  Father!’  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs of Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”  – Romans 8.14-17 NASB

Declaration of son-ship*.

God’s declaration of son-ship over us just is.

PERIOD.

It can never be cancelled out; not by our own behavior, nor by circumstance, nor by the action of another.  Yet, we are by our natural birth, slaves born into bondage – all of us.  We are not sons and heirs of God, but rather sons of slaves born into toil and hopelessness.  And, in a land full of slaves there is no hope lest a free man come and deliver them from their bondage.

This, we know, is the Gospel.  We understand that our freedom results from our adoption to son-ship as part of our inheritance in the Kingdom.  From there, we must continually learn to operate as sons and heirs, walking with a true heart of repentance – constantly realigning ourselves with our true nature which God is revealing to us in Christ.  As we continually grow in the assurance of this son-ship, the enemies of freedom and Kingdom living melt away in a sea of grace.

Know your enemy.

Today, I’d like to spend some time expounding on what I mean by “enemies of freedom and Kingdom living”.  I think its very important to understand as, in many ways, these characteristics can act as a barometer of sorts in our lives, a freedom meter if you will.

Read the headlines, and you’ll see much of the world around us is living in bondage and slavery.  People fight over politics, philosophy, religion, race, and so much more.  We marginalize one another and propagate polarization through our xenophobic unwillingness to have honest dialogue and transparent community.  Really, hatred is just the “logical” conclusion of the characteristics below.  It is the ultimate crescendo of selfish thinking.

Several weeks ago, Chad was teaching on a Sunday morning and he was talking about love.  He asked the question…

“What is the opposite of love?”

Most of us immediately thought of hatred or fear or lust.  But, I think his answer surprised many of us, if not all…

“Selfishness.”

Friends, listen…

Abolish selfishness and you’ll abolish hatred.

So, hatred is not our enemy, neither is racism or bigotry or the other forms of “evil” that we find in the land.  Our enemy is selfishness which is why these characteristics below are important to discuss – they are all “manifestations” of selfishness.  Whereas, freedom is a manifestation of love.

Performance.

Performance is a mentality through which we believe (consciously or unconsciously) that our merits will earn us favor with God.  Conversely, this performance mentality must also accept that our lack of merit and failure will earn us demerits – thereby losing favor with God.  This is a terribly precarious way to live and there is no freedom in it.  However, according to God’s Word, we enter His grace by faith not by works (lest any man should boast) and faith alone pleases God – our “works” are merely a manifestation and demonstration of our faith.  Living with simple faith and trust in His declaration of grace allows us as his children to live free from bondage to legalism.

Compartmentalization.

Compartmentalization is a mentality which creates ungodly separation and segregation in life.  This lifestyle believes that certain portions of life are sacred or secular validating certain behaviors as acceptable in one environment that would not be in others.  Though it masquerades itself as “wisdom”, “rationality”, and “logic”, unfortunately, a compartmentalized lifestyle gives us license to live without complete integrity between who God says we are inwardly and who we demonstrate ourselves to be outwardly.  Jesus, on the other hand, taught and modeled an integrated kingdom lifestyle in which He lived with integrity and consistency everywhere He went.

Hypocrisy.

The word hypocrisy comes from the ancient Greek word hupokrites which was a word used to describe the actors on a stage who would wear masks to disguise their true identities.  It is a mentality which creates a lifestyle of duplicity – a lifestyle in which we are one person in one environment and another elsewhere.  It is closely related to compartmentalization – maybe you could say, it’s the “next level” of a lifestyle of non-integrity.  Jesus rebuked the Pharisees (Matthew 23), calling them hypocrites, as they had become masters at appearing outwardly righteous and godly, while inwardly they were full of ungodliness such as jealousy, deceit, judgment, and much more.  Instead, Jesus is calling us to be authentic and transparent people of integrity modeling the glory of His grace everywhere we go.

Criticism.

Criticism is a mentality of marginalization and polarization.  Because we do not agree with those around us, or because they are difficult to deal with and to understand, we criticize them.  We use terms like “us” and “them” which wrongly create a position of superiority over our fellow man usually because we “get it” and they don’t or we “have the revelation” and they do not.  However, we know that separation is not a characteristic of love – but rather unification.  In fact, one of Jesus’ primary goals is unification.  Toward the end of His earthly ministry, just before heading to the cross (John 17), He prayed that we would be one just as He and the Father are one from eternity.  We must be careful to have an inclusive gospel which says things like “come to me and be illuminated and made new” rather than an exclusive gospel which says things like “stay away, you don’t get it and you’re unclean”.

Judgment.

Judgement is the ultimate selfish mentality.  But please understand what I mean, this judgment is not discernment or the ability to “judge a tree by its fruit” – which Jesus encourages us to do.  This is a judgment which passes sentence on the “offender” – which Jesus STRONGLY encourages us not to do.  After all, how can anyone who came into the Kingdom by sheer grace become so deceived as to elevate themselves to a place from which they can sit in judgment toward others.  This in no way intended to promote a permissiveness toward sin or a gospel of “sloppy grace.”  Rather, when we realize that we all deserve judgment of the most excruciating kind for our crimes against the Throne but instead, Jesus took the punishment and bore our sin and shame on the cross, then and only then will we realize that we would be foolish to believe that there are any who are “disqualified” from His grace.  Rather, none are qualified for it in the first place, we just need accept it as a gift.

Let love dominate you.

I want to encourage you today (as I’ve been encouraging myself) to ask the Father to show you the areas where selfishness is dominating your thinking and your patterns of behavior toward Him and toward those around you – your family, your colleagues, your church, and the world.  Look for the five areas that I described above and…

“Let love be without hypocrisy…” – Romans 12.9a NASB

 


* I wanted to take a moment to point out that when I say, “sons” I am not delineating between genders.  In fact, in Christ, women (just like men) are adopted sons according to God’s promise (Galatians 3.28,29) and fellow heirs of grace (1 Peter 3.7).

[Kingdom Living] Son or Slave?

Priming the Pump

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba!  Father!’  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs of Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”  – Romans 8.14-17 NASB

The Ministry of the Spirit.

If we asked a sampling of Christ-followers to tell us about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, likely we would be met with a variety of answers – regeneration, sanctification, conviction of sin, spiritual formation, edification, equipping for Christian service, signs and wonders, and so on.  Though, regardless of our traditions or creedal affiliations, it seems that there is often a glaring omission in this conversation.  According to the passage above, one of the primary ministry functions of the Spirit of God is to whisper in our ear…

 “You’re my son*.  I’ve adopted you by the word of my declaration and made you an heir in my Kingdom.  Persevere that I may manifest my glory in you.”

The question is…

ARE WE LISTENING?

Adoption.

 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” – John 1.12,13 NASB

In Galatians chapter 4, the Apostle Paul unpacks this idea of adoption beautifully.  He describes how we all were born into slavery under the law subject to the indictments against us and all of humanity.  But now, having received Christ, God has declared us sons and heirs though we were by nature we were objects of His wrath, separated from Him and from His eternal family.  Paul goes on to say that BECAUSE we are sons, God has sent forth His Spirit into our hearts crying out, “Abba!  Father!”

It is interesting when you look at the Galatians passage in context and consider that Paul is writing to a group of Christ-followers who have departed from the Gospel of grace in favor of a Gospel of works.  They have committed themselves to a relationship with “tablets of stone” instead of continuing in relationship with the “Spirit of Freedom” (2 Corinthians 3).

So then, sons are not those who are slaves to rules of righteousness.  On the contrary, they are those who are BEING LED by the Spirit of righteousness.  They are those who are allowing the Kingdom reality to have its way in them, transforming them, revealing the life of Christ to them, in them, and through them.

A Declaration of Grace.

The Word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5) is God’s declaration of son-ship over us which can never be cancelled out; not by our own behavior, nor by circumstance, nor by the action of another.  We must continually learn to operate as sons and heirs, walking with a true heart of repentance – constantly realigning ourselves with our true nature which God is revealing to us in Christ.  As we continually grow in this lifestyle of son-ship, the enemies of Kingdom living…

  • performance
  • compartmentalization
  • hypocrisy
  • criticism
  • judgment

…melt away in a sea of grace.

 


* I wanted to take a moment to point out that when I say, “sons” I am not delineating between genders.  In fact, in Christ, women (just like men) are adopted sons according to God’s promise (Galatians 3.28,29) and fellow heirs of grace (1 Peter 3.7).

[Everyday Christians] the theology of VOCATION

Priming the Pump

the theology of VOCATION.

We talk a great deal about being a missionary every day, that we are sojourners living in a foreign land, but not as REFUGEES – as AMBASSADORS.  We are SENT ONESCALLED…to be agents of change in this life, in this world, in our families, in our jobs, in our schools, in government, in our churches, in our culture…

CALLED

definitions and roots.

VO-CA-TION noun

  • a strong desire to spend your life doing a certain kind of work
  • the work that a person does or should be doing
  • from Latin – vocatio = calling

Up until the Protestant reformation, the general view of the Church was such that the priests and others in “the service of God” were the only ones with a VOCATION.  However, the reformers, believed furiously in the fact that every man had a calling or a VOCATION.  They believed that all of life and work was as sacred in Christ as it was when God put Adam and Eve into the Garden of Eden and instructed them to cultivate and keep it (Genesis 2.15).  They believed that all are CALLED to “the service of God”, that we, in Christ, are all priests, set apart, consecrated…

 “That the pope or bishop anoints, makes tonsures, ordains, consecrates, or dresses differently from the laity, may make a hypocrite or an idolatrous oil-painted icon, but it in no way makes a Christian or spiritual human being. In fact, we are all consecrated priests through Baptism, as St. Peter in 1 Peter 2[:9] says, ‘You are a royal priesthood and a priestly kingdom,’ and Revelation [5:10], ‘Through your blood you have made us into priests and kings.'” – Martin Luther

This, dear friends, is an area where my Reformed roots run very deep and an idea that I believe is worth fighting for.  Honestly, I believe that many folks for many years have done a good deal of damage to the priestly empowerment of the Church of Christ with terms such as CLERGY and LAITY.  Though, certainly not willfully or with malice, but rather because it helps our Western-Thinking minds compartmentalize and classify certain activities and professions.  Terms like SACRED and SECULAR, fall into a similar category of distaste for me because I believe that they create an unhealthy segregation in life between that which God is concerned with and that which he is not.  Yet, Biblically (as a friend pointed out to me several weeks ago) all things which were touched by the blood of the sin offering became SACRED, meaning that such compartmentalization has no place in the life of a blood bought, Christ follower…

reigning it in.

Allow me to posit to you a question…

Do you have a VOCATION?

“Yes,” you may say, “I’m a business person,” or “I’m an engineer,” or “I’m a stay-at-home mom,” or “I’m a pastor,” or “I’m a musician,” or “I’m an administrative professional,” or “I’m a technician,” or “I’m a cook,” or …

“I’m a tent-maker,” or “I’m a fisherman,” or “I’m a cup-bearer,” or “I’m a king,” or “I’m a shepherd,” or “I’m a gardener,” or “I’m a carpenter” …

Let’s look at the Apostle Paul as an example…

 “After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth.  And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.  He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers.  And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks (Acts 18.1-4 NASB).”

I wonder if Paul would have considered himself bi-vocational.  I dare say that he would not have.  Rather, I think that he had a different grasp of his VOCATION all together than what you and I often do…

“Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (1 Corinthians 1.1 NASB)…”

I’m not sure that Paul would have said that he was CALLED to be a tent-maker, rather I think he would have said that he walked in his VOCATION or CALLING while making tents AND while preaching in the synagogue.  See the vital difference?  How about you?  What’s your VOCATION?  Are you walking in it whatever your hands find themselves doing?

today’s big idea.

Jesus is building us together as spiritual stones to be a holy tabernacle, a “place” where His presence can be encountered and His grace demonstrated and received.  He is making us a SACRAMENTAL people.  Our VOCATION is to be change agents, ambassadors, carriers of a different culture, representatives of a Kingdom of peace, joy, and righteousness in the Holy Spirit.