Thursday, July 7, 2011

His Kingdom - our current reality and goal of our Journey!

God's Kingdom is our current reality as well as the goal of the Journey.
Jesus continually talked about the Kingdom. It was the subject of many of His parables, and the conscious setting and context for all He did and said. It is important to understand why He spoke about it so often and why it was such an emphasis of His teaching.
I believe that being Kingdom minded is what Christ is determined to build into us and how He intends us to live everyday. I serve the King of this new kingdom and my ultimate hope is found in that kingdom and His ever present glory. Whatever I have here on earth is only a dim image of heavens reality. It can't begin to compare to heaven. I want the real thing!
It is important to know this because His goal was to redeem us from this fallen, broken world, and make us new creatures that are fit for His glorious Kingdom. We must understand that God is not interested in fixing our brokenness. He doesn't want to just patch us up. He wants to recreate us, and to do this we must die so we can be reborn. We must let go of our selfish ambitions, our fleshly temptations and desires, our small dreams, and earthly affections that distract us from this new life we now have in Christ. That is what Paul was talking about in Galatians 2:20 "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 loves me, and delivered Himself up for me."
Jesus also taught this truth as He taught the disciples about the new life. He asked the disciples in Matt. 16:13-16 "Who do men say that I am?" One by one they answered and Jesus listened to their answers and then asked, "But who do you say that I Am". His true interest was what they thought, not everyone else. He is asking each of us the same question. Our response has to be what we believe, not what someone else says or believes. Peter then responded "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God".
Then Jesus continued sharing His plans to build the church on such faith. He also told them He was going to have to die. He also made it clear that there was a cost to following Him.
Mt. 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after me, let Him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me". 
It must be remembered that when Jesus spoke these words, the disciples knew nothing of the cross that awaited Jesus. Their only image of the cross was a horrible instrument of death reserved for criminals and enemies of Rome. That is exactly what Jesus had in mind. The picture was clear. To follow Jesus they would have to die to themselves and only then could they know the new, abundant life He promised. Nothing less would do. That was their cross and He was making sure they knew that allegiance to Him meant death to self.
The new life - the recreation of us, is also what Jesus was alluding to in the parable of the wineskins:
Matt. 9:17 "Nor do men put new wine in old wineskins, otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved."
He is talking about us when He mentions fresh wineskins. The new wine is the Holy Spirit.
I must die and be reborn as a new creature, one that has never existed prior to Christ's redemptive work in me, so that two very important things become possible:
The first being that Jesus can now live inside of me and allow me to live this new life.
The second being that I am now fit for heaven and can, in my new redeemed state, fully enjoy and abide the glory of God for eternity, starting now and going forward forever.
With our new nature and the transforming of our minds that comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can now see this fallen world from His perspective and with His eyes and His motivations. Jesus made our new state of existence very clear on the night before He died as He prayed to His Father in the hearing of the disciples. He said this:
John 17:16 "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
Why is it important that I know that I am not of this world, and what is the evidence that this transformation from this world to His Kingdom is really happening?
It is important that I know that I am a new creature and the citizen of His kingdom because as this new creature that He is creating me to be, I am becoming more aware everyday that I am an alien and a stranger on this planet. As this awareness grows it shapes how I see the world around me, how I look at life, money, things, my time, the people around me and on and on.
The evidence that the transformation is happening is that I find myself living out of my new nature as I respond from a God heart to the world around me. I am also more and more aware of how this must all look to God as He watches broken, lost men try to solve the problems of life apart from Him, knowing He alone is the answer, and this too is evidence of my transformed mind and heart. I am more and more aware that the things that break God's heart now are breaking mine. I also find myself thinking often "Father, this must break your heart to see what sin has done to Your perfect creation." That also tells me I am being transformed, and God is making me into the image of His Son.
I now carry His heart in me, the heart that constrained Him to come to set free what has been enslaved and broken - both men and His creation. It motivates me to tell the lost and broken I meet on this journey, the truth of the Good News in the hope of seeing others set free to new life and new hope. God left us here to be light and salt to a dark and tasteless world. He also gave each of us gifts that allow us to do what He commanded - Go into all the world. It starts at your door step and you never know where it will lead each day, but we know it ultimately leads us to the heart of God, and one day entrance into His presence where we will look on Jesus face and throw our crowns at His feet as we enter the fullness of His Kingdom.
I also know I am being transformed because I am homesick for Heaven. I am a new creature and was made for His Kingdom and there is in me a longing to be there when He decides the time is right. I believe that resides in all of His children. It should! He has promised that He will come again and the hope of that promise resides in all true followers of Jesus. Until the time when He will take me home I have the privilege and joy of carrying Christ to a lost and broken world and I am constrained by love to do that in whatever way God gives me opportunity.
This journey only makes sense in the light of His Kingdom, of which I am part here and now, also knowing the full experience awaits when He calls me HOME! That isn't just true of me. It is true of all who have given their lives to Christ and follow Him. Don't settle for a lesser journey of small dreams, earthly ambitions and fleshly desires. As those who follow Christ, we are made for so much more, and He has offered us all the riches of His glory and His presence every step of the way. We have what the world is looking for even though they don't know it. The beauty of the new life is that we only really experience it when we give ourselves away as Jesus did. That is what we are made for and He has given us all we need so we are fully capable of living sacrificially and we never have to worry about the cost. It's all covered in Christ - the risen Lord. He already payed for us, so live with abandon and sacrificially and you can't miss the blessings and the wonder of this incredible journey. He is with us every step of this amazing journey.

Monday, July 4, 2011

What We Need for the Journey

What we will need for the JOURNEY?
As with any journey - you have to determine what will be needed to complete the journey and deal with the unexpected along the way.
I will share with you the convictions that I have held fast to in my journey. 

God is good and can be trusted with me and my life, but:
James 1:2-4, 12
 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
 And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
What is the joy when you encounter various trials?

The joy isn’t the trial - it is the opportunity the trial provides us to grow our faith.
Faith - Choosing to believe that what God has said to us in His word is true - even when everything around us tells us differently. TRUST!
Testing - not a pass or fail - but an opportunity to exercise our faith.  Faith is like a muscle and the more we use it - the more we can do, and the more we can endure as we follow Him on this journey. 
Result - endurance - the ability to stay faithful to what we know is true no matter what circumstances we 
That you may be perfect and complete - lacking in nothing. This isn’t so much about me - but the object of my faith - JESUS. As I trust Him, I am perfect and complete in HIM!
If this is not a firm conviction, then every trial that I encounter in life becomes a test of God’s goodness, rather than what it is - an opportunity to live by faith in Christ. This firm conviction
keeps me dependent on Him rather than myself. Otherwise I will start trying to run my own life and I do not have the ability to do that. I will quit and give up on the journey, and then I will miss the joy of having persevered and endured and stand at the end of all things knowing I finished well and held steadfast in my faith.
My trust of God will allow me to face life’s trials and walk in the faith that He allows all things for my ultimate benefit and good, and is growing me into completeness in Christ. 

What I do, I do for love of Christ, not the applause or the adoration of men.

There are many things that I have done both inside and outside of my family called Open Door Fellowship Church to serve and protect this body and to spread the good news of Jesus. Most people would never know. That is true of every one of the elders and the Pastors of ODF an many other churches. I could allow myself to be hurt by the lack of recognition, and at times I have found myself indulging the thoughts that no one knows and no one cares, so why do I keep doing this when no one even sees?
THE TRUTH - I am continually aware that someone does see. The only one that matters sees it all and He knows everything. I have to keep in front of me that it is for love of Christ that I do the things I do and out of that love I also choose to love the people I am a shepherd of. His love of me and my love of Him is what drives me, and empowers me and allows me to do it again, and again.
I know that one day I will, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, appear before Jesus and in that moment everything will become clear. In that moment Jesus will look into my eyes and after a pause for me to catch my breath He will say “I know. I know everything. I saw everything. I know what you did for me and what it cost you that no one else will ever know. Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
This conviction is what allows me to stay in the battle and remain faithful to the things that are set before me. Without that, I just get burnt out and cynical and live out of hurt and disappointment, rather than knowing that I stand shoulder to shoulder with Jesus as He sustains me. I also know that my fellow elders and close friends stand with me in all of this and I am not alone. It is critical that you develop this conviction and that you have those around you who hold the same conviction to the same degree. You will need to draw from it often on this journey.

I am a servant first and everything else comes after that.
I serve the risen Christ.
Mark 10:42-45
 42 And calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.
 43 “But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;
 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.
 45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
I have always seen myself as a servant first and a leader second. 
I have always believed that a leader must be a servant first because that is what Jesus modeled for us and He commanded that we love one another as He has loved us. It is the model Jesus gave us and we can do no less if we follow Him. A servant sees others as more important than himself and in living that way they gain the trust and loyalty of those they lead.
When I see others as more important than myself, I am demonstrating the most authentic evidence that Christ is changing me and that I am becoming more like Him, which is the ultimate goal - Romans 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son,....
MOST IMPORTANTLY- the currency of this new Kingdom is LOVE. It is all there is that has any value in God’s kingdom. Because of LOVE Jesus laid aside His place in glory to come and display His Father’s LOVE to men who would deny him and kill Him. But He did it because LOVE could do no less and it was the only way that those who God had in mind from eternity could ever be saved and set free.
In His kingdom, of which I am now a citizen by birth, nothing is valued more than LOVE and nothing else can bring about the change from brokenness to completeness in Christ Jesus.
What ever we do in serving Jesus, if it is not done from LOVE it is of no value to Christ and His kingdom. His desire is to draw all men to Himself. It begins with His LOVE for us, which was why He came and suffered and died and then rose on the third day, Ro 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 
It is carried on when, because Christ lives in me,  I choose to LOVE out of the knowledge that I am loved by the only one that matters.
John 13:34-35
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
He didn’t say “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love me”. They will know by how we love each other, and those around us who don’t know the God of LOVE, who sent His own Son as a demonstration of His infinite LOVE.
It isn’t just fellow believers, it includes the broken, the lost, the disenfranchised and the outcasts of this fallen world. That is what Jesus did, and what He has called us to do.
So, Jesus still extends the invitation - “Come follow Me”, to everyone of us. 
What will you do now that He has called you and me?
It will be the greatest and most demanding journey you will ever go on. It will cost you everything and in return you get eternity and all the riches of God’s Heaven and the chance to gaze upon His face forever, surrounded by all those who went before and now wait for our arrival home, and I long to hear the words - “well done my good and faithful servant”.
We have not arrived simply because we know and understand God’s grace and His love personally. We have not arrived at the finish line and we won’t on this planet. To act as though we have is to miss the journey and the great adventure and is to settle for less than what Jesus called us to do. The final goal, the finish line is Heaven and that is where my heart is drawn and why I run and endure all of the brokenness of this world. That is the adventure I wanted and nothing less, and it continues once I am in His kingdom. My eyes are fixed on Jesus! All I have come to understand and experience in an environment of grace and my identity in Christ is so that I can know Jesus authentically and intimately, and trust and follow Him and depend on Him on my journey, here and beyond.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Destination or the Journey?

It’s not just the destination 
but the JOURNEY that matters most.
I had a conversation with a friend the other day and as we talked he said he had been struggling with a lot of thoughts and it finally occurred to him that he was thinking about the destination and as he realized that, he came to the awareness that it was not so much the destination, but the journey that was really important. 
I have thought a lot about that in the last couple of days, and as I look back over my life I am aware of both the destination and the journey. If you read my newsletter on my website, you know what I am talking about. If you didn’t, click on my latest RTM Newsletter.
The destination - heaven and eternity with Christ is hard wired deep in the new creature that I became when I surrendered my life to Jesus. I am aware of it all the time. When I see the world around me and am so aware that it is broken and it isn’t right. It isn’t as it should be. It is twisted and corrupted. I know this because I have within my soul the echo - the resonance and the full picture of the world and reality as it should be, and the one I was created for, and the longing for what God intended all along. It’s called HOME. It is what we all long for and can’t put words to it, or express it fully, but it is constantly there and I cannot get away from it. I don’t want to get away from it. I want to get to it. It tells me I am made for something more. I am destined for something better. I am intended for another kingdom. I am a citizen of this other kingdom where everything is in order and as it was always meant to be. I also know it because I feel like an alien in this world. I am homesick and my heart longs to be with the one who made me new and whole. A place where there is no sin, no tears, no sorrow, no death, no unfulfilled dreams and unrealized hopes. It is where I know that so many of my family and friends are waiting for me. It is living in the light of truth every moment - the truth of the person of Jesus - God in flesh and the Son of the Living God. I want to be with Jesus in His kingdom and looking upon His face for all eternity. To come to know Him in ever deeper ways that I can only experience when I am there with Him.
The Journey - I agree with my friend that we can get obsessed with the destination and lose sight of the journey. Why is this journey so important? Because it is in the journey that we discover both who Jesus is and who we are. Jesus invited His disciples to “Come and follow me”. He told them that if they chose to follow Him that He had no place in this world to lay His head. He was inviting them on a journey of discovery. It was a discovery of Him and themselves in every new experience with Him. It was a journey that would try them, test them, reveal them and cause them to learn to trust Him for everything. On this journey they would be amazed, confused, scared, and in the midst of it all their faith would grow. Their dependance on Jesus would grow and their understanding would grow. The journey was important because it was in each new circumstance and new opportunity of seeing Jesus deal with the unexpected and the crisis of life He encountered daily, that they grew to understand that He was more than a mere man. This was in fact God in the flesh. God with us - Emmanuel. They came to know that He alone could meet their deepest needs. 
This is the same journey Jesus has called me on and anyone who would choose to come and follow Him. The beauty of the here and now journey is that not only does Jesus walk with me. He lives inside of me. He animates me when I choose to surrender my will to His and allow the things that move God’s heart to move mine. It is on this journey that His desires and hopes and dreams become my desires and hopes and dreams. It is life abundant and full and more satisfying than anything this world has to offer. 
The other wonder of this journey is that it continues into eternity. It is never ending. I will spend my eternity with Jesus. I will never finally arrive. I will always be arriving and will always discover new and beautiful things about the one who saved me and redeemed me and gave me this new life with all it’s facets and nuances. The destination is just another part of the journey and we are getting a taste of it now, but we will drink it’s fullness then and for always. 
I will endeavor every day to not miss this journey and all there is for me here and now as I follow Jesus. 
Paul said it very well in Rom. 12:1-2 “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
That is what the journey is about - 
being transformed into new creatures that are destined for, and can abide an eternity with Jesus in His glorious Kingdom - HOME!.
   As Jesus said - “Come follow me”.  
  Are you willing and ready? 
If so - The great adventure awaits.