Friday, October 29, 2010

Gardening in the Kingdom

Several weeks ago, I began a long range yard-work project. Bermuda grass was beginning to take over my front lawn. Bermuda grass is a very invasive, tough weed. So, we began a project to eradicate the presence of Bermuda grass in my yard. However, like other weeds, where there are herbicides that can kill a particular weed, there is no herbicide that specializes in Bermuda grass. Round-Up will kill it; but then Round-Up kills everything. To remove Bermuda grass, a person must kill everything and replant.

So, several weeks ago, I gave several applications of round-Up to approximately a 250 square yard triangle in my front yard. Killing everything was the easy part.

We investigated, got advice, and came up with a plan of action. We implemented said plan. And we achieved zero success. Zero grass.

So, we have investigated more, gotten more advice, and came up with a new plan of action, that involved more work, more expense, more aches, pains and scraped knuckles. This plan involved roto-tilling, raking and removing several hundred pounds of dead cellulose. (Ie. old dead plant material. If one could sell old, dead plant material, I could retire.) Since, we have just executed this plan, I have no idea how successful it will be.

I have often compared the church-planting/evangelization process with the process of planting a garden. There is cultivation of the ground, sowing seed, weeding, watering, fertilizing, harvesting and storing the produce.

There is a lot of labor involved in harvesting. But it does not come close to the labor of cultivating the ground. The real back-breaking labor comes from breaking up the soil, removing unwanted rocks and vegetation, churning the soil again and again, so it is ready to receive the seed. If this is true in a physical setting, why are we surprised that it should not be so in a spiritual setting?

I have heard people find the current church lacking because it has not harvested like the first century church. They saw 3000 people choose to follow Jesus the first time Peter preached. Yes, I am sure the Spirit coming at Pentecost had something to do with it. But the same Spirit is here now. A real difference between then and now is that Jesus spent the previous several years breaking up the ground, praying, living, loving, modeling, sowing God’s word, watering and fertilizing. Jesus harvested little in comparison to the Apostles. But he did the more difficult work without there can be no harvest.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


“Gospel” can be translated “good news” or “good report.” It is usually associated with the message of Jesus. Most evangelicals – a group of Jesus-followers with a common understanding of God’s will – confine the gospel to one part of Jesus’ message. It is part of the gospel – an important, vital part. But there are other parts.
• Jesus promised that if we receive the pardon his death purchased, we would not receive the punishment our sins deserve.
• Jesus promised that his Kingdom would rule over creation. There would be no unfairness, prejudice, conflict and want. There would always be justice, acceptance, peace and sufficiency.
• Jesus promised that there would be transformation. Individuals would not be bound to evil. Nature would not be subject to pollution, corruption and death. Groups and cultures would join together.

Each of these are part of the good news. Each of these are good news. Are there other parts of the gospel?

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Kingdom Revisited ... Again

Jesus has gone away. Soon, he will return to establish the Kingdom. In the meantime, he has given us resources. Time. Money. Energy. A spiritual gift. And he has given us a job. We need to use our resources for his profit. He expects to hear what we have done to improve the Kingdom.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Kingdom Revisited

Another picture of the Kingdom involves yeast mixed into dough. When mixed, it becomes invisible, yet it affects the whole batch of dough. People may not actually see the Kingdom. But the effects will be felt throughout living. It is pervasive. It affects thinking, dreaming, attitudes and speech.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Kingdom

Jesus describes God’s Kingdom to a crowd. He describes it as a mustard seed planted in a garden. A mustard seed is a small seed. But it produces a large plant. It is large enough for several bird to make their homes in.

We expect the Kingdom to big and grand. After all, do not rulers have large palaces? Does not a successful pastor have a church building which seats several thousand people?

God’s Kingdom is the biggest and greatest in all creation. But God does not begin with the huge, imposing magnificent image. He begins with a small seed. And the seed grows to be more than anyone thought possible. But it is no more than a spark of life, nourished and watered.

We are not instructed to erect large monuments. We are instructed to build homes, to give shelter and to provide a place for people.

Monday, October 18, 2010


The end of our existence in life is to live like Jesus and to love like Jesus. As we move toward this end, there will be effects of our life – positive effects.

Jesus lived in dependence on the Father. God’s strength and life flowed to Jesus. Fruit developed as a result. Fruit grew naturally.

Fruit are characteristics that flow from our hearts. They are words, actions and attitudes that flow from our lives. Fruit is the outgrowth of a person’s inner life. The fruit of the Spirit is the outgrowth of God in my heart changing my attitudes and actions. The fruit of praise is the outgrowth of my connection with God and increasingly clear picture of God’s nature, God’s interaction with the world and God’s attitude toward people. The fruit of salvation is the outgrowth in someone else’s heart. That fruit of salvation arises from a seed planted through seeing new actions and attitudes of Jesus’ disciples, a connection with God, and gaining an increasing clear vision of God’s nature and actions. The seed germinated, resulting in a change of allegiance to God. Salvation is fruit derived from other fruit.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Planting vs. Harvesting

Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful. The main need at the time was workers for harvesting. This means that many people were ready to hear Jesus’ message, receive it and him.

If the harvest is plentiful, that means there has been a lot of work cultivating, planting, weeding, watering, fertilizing and pruning. A lot of work has gone into the fields, or garden, to get ready for the harvest.

When we look at evangelistic activities currently – methods of gospel sharing, crusades, calls-forward – these are all harvest activities. Let us understand. We need harvest activities. But we also need planting activities. We also need watering activities. We don’t see those activities. They are not popular. They are not public. But if they are not done, there will be no harvest.

The apostles “harvested” 3000 souls early in their ministry, and several more thousand a few days later, because Jesus had been working the ground and the fields for the previous three years. Jesus himself did not harvest nearly so many. There 120 in the upper room. And 500 witnesses of the resurrection. Are these the greater works that Jesus mentioned? And if Jesus spent most of his time preparing for harvest, which activity is more important? I would say the answer to that question is “neither.”

Monday, October 11, 2010


The way of the Cross is the way of topsy-turvy values. The general tendency is to judge greatness by visibility as in the case of movie stars, or how large a position of authority they occupy, as in politicians, generals or rulers. Jesus’ rules of greatness were very different. One question for Jesus that determines greatness is how available a person is to connect with people who come to him.

Many homes in Jesus’ time were built around a central courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard was a table. Guests would sit around the table eating and discussing religion, philosophy or current events. Since, there was no TV, movies or the internet, passersby were permitted, as part of the culture, to sit or stand around the perimeter of the table to listen to the conversation.

So, Jesus said that one way to determine greatness was how willing was a person to not only allow them to stand around and listen, but how willing were they to invite the person to the table. Were they willing to let a five year old to sit at the table and to participate in the discussion? And were they willing to treat his remarks as importantly as if it were a celebrity or the president sitting there?

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Gospel and Miracles

Jesus did not perform miracles to just demonstrate power. The miracles were also a preaching of the gospel.

When he cured someone of a disease, he was also proclaiming their souls were broken, just like there bodies were. And as he had the power to mend their bodies, he had the power to mend their souls.

When they were surrounded by a hungry crowd, and it was impossible to feed them, he fed them, they were satisfied, and they had enough leftovers that a sizable part of the crowd could have had lunch the next day. There is an ability to feed the hunger of the soul in Jesus. And not of a few, who had to struggle through hours, days and weeks of prayer, fasting and meditation. Soul satisfaction can come by sitting and waiting for Jesus to serve you.

Human beings live on multiple kinds of fuel. Some fuels – eg. love and mission – require taking action. Some fuels – eg. receiving love and forgiveness – require open hands and acceptance.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sharing the Gospel

In Luke’s biography of Jesus, he gives a brief description of a training trip Jesus’ apostles went on.

Jesus begins by equipping the apostles.
  • He gave them power and authority over demons and disease.
  • He gave them an objective. To preach the Kingdom of God and to heal.
  • He gave them guidelines for proceeding from city to city, and what to do in each place.
Here are some observations from this story.
  • The was not at the end of Jesus’ ministry. Neither was it the beginning. Jesus did not wait until the apostles had it all together. They had some training and education. They watched Jesus share. They had been taught be Jesus. They observed and absorbed Jesus’ heart and spirit. He spent enough time to prepare them to complete the job. Was God’s work in their lives complete? Did the y have no more room to grow in? Were they at the peak of efficiency and effectiveness? No, no and no. Which probably means there were successes, failures and learning.
  • The purpose was to proclaim the Kingdom of God and heal. Then, it said they were preaching the gospel and healing. It seems to make proclaiming the Kingdom and preaching the gospel equivalent. Are the Kingdom and the gospel equivalent? Does the Kingdom equal the Four Laws? (The four Laws is a tool to explain the gospel to someone who does not understand it in a succinct and easy to remember way.) The gospel is probably more than Jesus forgiving people and bringing them to heaven. (1) All things will be revealed. (2) God’s rule will be established. So, everything that is wrong will get righted. (3) People will be given a new life. This is more than forgiveness. It is purpose, meaning, and significance. It is community, the giving and receiving of love, creativity and beauty.
  • Part of God’s instructions were to heal. He expected diseases to be cured and demons cast out … by a group of relative neophytes. Does God expect the same for today? There can be a number of understandings about the concept “heal.” We could provide medical care for those who need it. We can participate in giving emotional and psychological care. (We may not be trained counselors, but a lot of healing can occur with love, acceptance and forgiveness.) And I do not want to downplay Jesus’ apparent expectation that his disciples are involved in praying for people.

Monday, October 04, 2010


No one lights a lantern and covers it with a blanket or puts it in a closet. That would totally negate the purpose of the lantern. The purpose is obviously to give light, to show the way, and to prevent injury by revealing what is hidden in the dark.

At some point, everything will be revealed. So, we need to pay attention to what we learn. Like a lantern, any truth of God is supposed to guide our steps. The most obscure, esoteric piece of theology has a place, an ordering effect, in our hearts. We should take care to reflect on what we learn so we can understand it, obey it and allow it to have the proper effect in our hearts.

How we handle what we learn today affect how God teaches us in the future. They are building blocks. He cannot add higher rows until the lower rows are in place.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Kingdom: LAN Metaphor

We have seen that God’s purposes include the establishment and growth of his Kingdom in the world. People are introduced to Jesus and given the opportunity to enter into a love relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit. By accepting this relationship, we are also invited to participate in his Kingdom and be his agent in the world.

In turn, he gives us his presence in our hearts, and empowers new capacities in our lives. God’s spirit and these capacities enable us to take up our vocation as God’s agent. In this light, it seems reasonable that to fulfill our role, that we clearly understand the scope of our capacities. And Scripture indicates that we should reflect on our role in a wise and humble manner.

That nature of God’s Kingdom is like a network. Each node is investing in the increase of other nodes it is linked to. Each node invests in the expansion of the network linking in new nodes.

To push this networking metaphor towards absurdity – The nodes are organized into clusters. The clusters are linked into clusters of clusters. These mega-clusters should be linked into other mega-clusters.

As each node interacts with other nodes in its cluster, each node should increase in signal strength and through put. This increase should cascade throughout the cluster, into the mega-cluster and eventually into other mega-clusters. This increase should also affect unattached nodes bringing them into the network.

Usually, firewalls are established. There are firewalls between mega-clusters. There are firewall between clusters. And, too often, there are firewalls between nodes – even within a cluster.

When a person realizes that he occupies one node on the network, and he is in need of the other nodes, as much as they are in need of him, he cannot assume too large a position. But neither can her assume too small a position. Assuming too small a position results in diminished functionality. The node – here we break the metaphor – loses motivation to complete his vocation. The node stops adding its voice to the song. Each node add a unique part to the whole. Without that node, the cluster is poorer, has a weaker signal and its ability to grow and attach new nodes into the cluster is diminished.