Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kingdom Like the Earth - 2

The Kingdom of God is like “the earth produces by itself.” Jesus identified the earth as the hearts or lives of people. There is good earth for producing fruit; and there is bad earth for producing fruit. There is only so much a farmer can do. He can plant seeds. If the soil is good, it will produce fruit. If the soil is bad, it will produce nothing.

It is god’s desire for his family to plant seed and produce fruit. If we plant, and no fruit is produced, what then?

We can decide that the production of fruit is completely out of our hands. It is entirely in God’s control. So, if there is no fruit, God did not want it? Or his timing was off? If this is true, all we, as his family, can do is to continue to plant. And wait for God to act. This story is about the mystery surrounding fruitfulness.

Some people look at the story and conclude that the earth contain everything for fruit. All we need to do is plant the seed. But planting cannot be construed as a simple throwing of seed. Consider Jesus’ instructions to the seventy.
•    Go in teams.
•    Pray for workers.
•    Seek the man of peace.
•    Live among the people.
•    Heal the sick. (Or serve to meet needs.)
•    Proclaim the kingdom. (As Jesus was coming, this proclamation was in preparation for his appearance.)
•    Go to specific cities. (The ones he was going to.)

The planting that Jesus prescribed was not haphazard or unplanned. It was intentional with particular steps and aims.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Kingdom Like the Earth

The Kingdom of God is like “the earth produces by itself.” The Kingdom of God is first of all in the hands of God. We see churches developing techniques, campaigns, etc. that have tremendous success in impacting the world and drawing people into the Kingdom. Other churches see the success and copy what the first church did. (The first church may even market what they did as THE Kingdom builder. There may be a book and seminars.)

However, techniques, method and campaigns do not build the Kingdom. The Kingdom is built as truth and grace are applied to people’s hearts. And it is only God who is stronger than a person’s heart. (And he does not force someone to choose to follow him.) So, it is God who builds his Kingdom.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Gospel

I was with two groups that brought out an amazing contrast in how the gospel is perceived.

The first group consisted of Jesus followers who were discussing their relationship with God. Someone asked how many chose to follow Jesus in the “normal” way – realization of one’s sin, God’s hate of sin, certain punishment without Jesus, God’s love that substitutes punishing us with punishing Jesus, receiving that love, inexpressible joy, total transformation, fireworks and brass bands. Out of the 12-14 people, only two were “saved” in the “normal” manner.

The second group consisted of people who were learning the message of Jesus for the first time. God’s message was presented in the “normal” way.

A quick survey of the first group revealed a variety of method and motivations for following Jesus:
•    An understanding of God’s nature and identity;
•    Realization that only God can meet certain needs;
•    Heart level longing for protection, companionship, purpose and meaning.
•    Repugnance for the dysfunction of life.

The first group concluded that God pursues people with grace and not a formula. I have concluded long ago that “unmerited favor” is an inadequate and incomplete definition for grace. Grace is God meeting you where you are and supplying you with whatever you need. God’s supply is favor and unmerited. But God supplies with wisdom, forgiveness, understanding, friends, food and water, mission and emotional support by his grace.

Are we short changing the gospel by providing an incomplete message?

Monday, December 20, 2010


God revealed the Truth about Jesus so we can find our way back to him. There will always be people who distort the Truth. They are deceived. They look to draw attention or authority to/for themselves. Honest people who search for the Truth are in danger of being deceived.

The only cure and prevention is truth. People need to know and understand Truth. People need to know how to handle it accurately. Not only will we be protected from going the wrong way, but we will be able to help guard others in the way also.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Transformed Life: Sowing

There is a general principal of life, of the spirit realm, and of relationships. As you sow, so shall you reap. The transformed life sows deeply into people sows deeply into the people who he connects to. He gives his heart. He sows loves, prayer, grace and service. He should reap a huge harvest.

There can be a tendency for discouragement. Someone gives long and strongly from the heart, and nothing happens. Like the farmer, the hardest work is the initial work when the is no result to be seen. Like the farmer, someone giving into a community needs to believe that the planting is not in vain. Fruit will come quickly enough, if faith is kept.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Transformed Life: Farmer

Farming is a very difficult job. First, the land must be prepared. Rocks and weeds removed. The ground made loose.; (Fortunately, the more the ground is worked, the easier is becomes it year.)

Then, seeds are planted. Consideration should be given what to plant. Each plant is different. Each are is different. Cucumbers are not planted the same way as corn. Oranges shouldn’t be planted in Minnesota. There are different requirements.

The seeds need moisture, fertilizer, light and heat. Weeds will continue to compete with the crops.

A tremendous amount of work is done before any results are seen. The famer must work in faith that what he does is effective.

It would not be fair if the farmer works hard to prepare, to plant and to bring the crop in, and someone else gets to choose how to dispose of it. The farmer puts his heart into his labors. He has a connection with the land. There is almost a love relationship.

The transformed life takes on new purposes. He joins with God’s purposes, so he seeks to plant God’s life into his “field” – his household, or his community. His loosens up the “field” with prayer. He waters it with love and service. He plants it with truth. He develops a love relationship with it.

The transformed life gives its heart to the people around him. As the give their heart, they will receive the fruit.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Transformed Life: Athlete

Athletes dedicate themselves for a chance to compete. They cannot guarantee success no mater how hard they work. Athletes working toward the Olympics work hard for long hours each day (for perhaps years) for a career that may last one race, a couple of jumps, one match or one game.

Many athletes search for something to give them a small advantage – a tenth of a second, a centimeter, or a few more grams. Success or failure can often be measured by these small amounts.

Sports authorities have long recognized that the desire for an edge can lead to unfair or detrimental practices. Steroids can give an unfair and unnatural advantage. They can also hurt the health of the athlete. So, rules are made that ban these practices; and penalties are given and enforced to stop them. Athletes is often banned from the sport they hope to receive glory from. Still, some cannot resist temptation. They seek their edge and hide their practices. There are too many stories about successful athletes, who are discovered and theglory they received turned to shame.

There are rules for the transformed life. The reward is influence over people, changed lives and transformed cities, countries and cultures. But the influence is earned by love, grace, service, truth and pure character. Some have tried to gain the influence by modern advertizing techniques, manipulation, guilt or glitz. These methods skirt the truth, love and honesty. It demonstrates less than godly character.

No one can match Jesus in any of these areas. But we can have authenticity in all these things. Using these other means will lead to less – less glory for the Father, less influence for the man, less effect for the Kingdom, and more denigration of God’s ways and purposes. And in the end, God will reveal his sorrow with ones who sought more for themselves than for him.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Transformed Life: Soldier

The perception of what it means to be a soldier of Christ usually involves large, expensive campaigns, assaults on people who resist the good news, and loud explosions of action designed to push back the tides of anti-Christ movement.

Jesus does give very powerful weapons of warfare. These weapons include love, prayer, transformed lives, unity, community and truth. (Truth is communicated verbally and in action; and it is encased by the other weapons.)

The weapons are different; the ways of waging warfare are different.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Transformed Life: Warfare

There are modern movies – “Saving Private Ryan”, “Platoon” – that paint a very graphic, real picture of the horrors of war. Regular people can get a taste of what soldiers lived through, and cannot speak of.

A soldier is called on to withstand pain and hardship to serve a cause greater than himself. And God has called on each of his children to serve as soldiers in his cause.

They cause Jesus-followers serve adds to God’s Kingdom, God’s family and God’s glory. People are filled with love, hope and purpose. God’s bride is filled with greater beauty.

It is a worthwhile cause deserving compete expressions of courage, devotion, concentration, intentionality and creativity. It is a cause that the vast majority of God’s family – myself included – fail to take up sufficiently. They do not have the vision and mind-set of the soldier.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Transformed Life: Reproduction

A transformed life ought to cause ripples in the environment. It should make a difference. One of the traits of life is reproduction. The ripples of the transformed life will be planted in human hearts. If the seed is received and nourished, it will germinate. And another person will begin the journey of the transformed life.

The transformed life is new. It requires new tools, new perspectives, new vision and new purposes. Much of the new life requires action. Much of it requires new understanding. And understanding must be given, so the new life can act efficiently, effectively and in the right direction.

Life begets life. A seed is planted and germinates. The life grows – and in its time, releases a new seed. The equipping of new life becomes a chain. It is passed to faithful ones who can act and equip other new life. It also becomes a matrix, multiplying new life. Equipping each new life is a vital concern to the Father. It ought to be a vital concern of each follower of Jesus. It ought to be a skill each one cultivates. The knowledge of what to do, how to do it, and how to pass it along, should be passed to each new life.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Transformed Life: Walk in Grace

When asked to define grace, most Christians answer “unmerited favor.” This isn’t wrong, but it does focus on the aspect of grace as purveyor of salvation. But a Jesus-follower’s entire life is supposed to be by grace.

I heard one definition as “God giving someone whatever it is they need to meet their needs at that given moment.” It is the giving-ness of God.

To live the transformed life, at some point, we will need to take action. Often, the action involved will be scary, difficult or unpleasant things. The transformed life – power for grace and love – does require that we walk through these things. We will need grace to take the first step. We will need grace to sustain us in strength and peace as we continue.

I am not speaking about an extreme form of persecution necessarily. That might be such a situation, though. We may need to surrender a personal liberty, because it is a hardship for someone else. We may need to speak to someone about an offense. We may need to take a step of service. We  may need to accept some deprivation to benefit someone else. In all these things, our nature will want to rebel, because of the pull of sin and the natural desire for personal peace. In all these things, to walk in love will require grace to strengthen the transformed life, now planted in our hearts.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Transformed Life: Culture

Since God is the creator of culture, relationship with him finds a home in the midst of culture. Since, man lives within a culture, and within sin, all cultural forms can be filled with sin (which should be repented of) or filled with the Spirit (and should be embraced.)

It is almost as if every generation needs to go to God and recreates the forms of connecting with him. It is almost as if every person needs to define the framework of life in Jesus and define an expression of that life that embodies their individual relationship with Jesus. But it needs to be defined in a way that connects to the family of God and to those who still need to choose to enter into a relationship with Jesus. (For part of Jesus’ framework is a relationship with him, a relationship with his family, and a relationship with those outside his family. One cannot choose one of these relationships without choosing an active, engaged relationship with all three. And the relationships do not stop within a person’s immediate context, but continues onto the horizon and beyond.)