Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kingdom - 2

Another story is about a farmer who plants wheat. But someone who hates him tries to damage him by planting weeds in his wheat field.

One does not need great wisdom or supernatural insight to realize that good and evil are living side by side. And God will not remove the evil until he finally establishes his Kingdom at the end.

One would suppose that the best thing to do with evil is destroy it as soon as possible. But that’s not God’s plan.

First, God is in the business of redeeming evil. We were all “weeds” at one time. If all the evil were destroyed, we would all be destroyed. And if all the evil were destroyed, there won’t be anyone to redeem. And God’s plan is to redeem as much and as many as possible.

Second, God is in the business of maximizing his glory. Perhaps condemning evil gains some glory. I think redemption produces a whole lot more.

Third, the farmer in the story describes damage to the wheat, if the weeds are pulled. No, I do agree that all people sin and deserve hell for breaking God’s law. But I sorta disagree with Augustine. There are some people are total reprobate. Their whole focus and effort in life is to do evil. Most people try to do good and every once in a while succeed. They contribute to life somewhere. If they were gone, there would be a hole. And the hole would cause problems. Their contribution would be missed.

I suppose Jesus’ main point here is that his kingdom is injected into the world, intended as a contrast to the world, like a picture of a flower growing in a crack in a city sidewalk. To influence the world, it has to rub shoulders with the pushers, prostitutes, thieves and murderers. And it has to rub shoulders with us, who are bad, but not nearly so.

And he was the biggest example of the kingdom, injected and growing in the midst of the world.

Kindgdom - 1d

Some of the seed landed in good soil/ It was cultivated with correct nutrients and produced tremendous fruit.

It would be safe to say that this soil was everything the others were not.

It was cultivated. That is, it was easy for the seed to penetrate the soil. Human spirits need to be cultivated. Prayer, love, service and consistent obedience to the truth affects human hearts, preparing them for the invitation of God. Consistent, persistent application of these things reinforces their effects, a well as help maintain their purity.

If the invitation is given truthfully and completely, no false expectations are built. God's intent and design is faithfully communicated, but the battlefield faithfully communicated also. We are aware of the rewards. We are not surprised by the conflict; and we are armed to meet it.

They are placed in a healthful environment. All the inputs necessary are being given. All the outputs necessary are being practiced. As we have spoken here in the past, I don't think that ingredients to a healthy inner life are ingredients that are considered traditionally religious. Though those are important. There are ingredients that would be considered emotional, psychological, social and physical that need to be considered.

Kingdom - 1c

Some of the seed landed among the weeds. The weeds competed for the life giving resources and the seed did not have what was necessary to thrive.

We are designed by God to survive, thrive and conquer. But like the human body, the human spirit requires numerous types of input to achieve optimal health. Strength and energy are depleted when these inputs are blocked. or diminished. The seed has no energy to grow.

The current cultural climate offers a multitude of things that can draw us away from a living, feeding connection with God. There are sinful indulgences. There are distractions. There are good and innocent things that when practiced and given proper priority can enhance our spiritual connection, but when given improper priority detract and hinder growth.

Kingdom - 1b

Some of the seed landed on rocky ground. There was some soil, and the seed germinated. But it could not put down roots, so it was scorched by the sun and died.

Often, God's invitation is accepted. Joy and delight soar to the clouds and bright sunshine. But in every life, dark clouds block the sun.  God's original design for the world and people was corrupted. Life is not how God intended it. It is a battle ground and most people do not understand the fight. They expect God to defeat the source of the battle, and life in Christ to run as smooth as silk. God will totally defeat the enemy. But for a time, we will engage in battle with him. Those not prepared for battle will desert the army. Their expectations were not meet.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kingdom - 1a

Some of the seed the farmer scattered landed on a path going along the side of the field. As people traveled on the path, the ground became hard. The seed could not penetrate into the ground. Birds came and ate the seed.

Let us remember that this is a picture of God's kingdom. The seed is God's invitation. The soil is the hearts of people. The birds are the agents of the enemy.

It is the lives of people that are in view here. People who do not accept the invitation of God. Are we stretching the metaphor too far by suggesting that people's hearts are hardened by being trampled on? It is certainly true in cases.

How do agents of Satan steal the seed? If it is the invitation of God, it is not a piece of paper. It is a word or an idea in them.

Maybe the idea is not reinforced? Learning increases if information hits the brain in many ways. If people just hear a sermon ...

Why are people walking away from church, as a whole, in increasing numbers? Studies have been done to answer this question. The basic answer is: people do not see the character of God. People do not experience the love of God. 

Maybe the invitation gets polluted? Contending ideas get introduced. Questions get asked that spread doubt about God's character, plan or motivation.

To be continued.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Kingdom - 1

Jesus told a series of stories designed to enlighten people with what his kingdom is like. He compares magnificent, unknown realities with simple things among us to paint a picture of those unknown realities that we can understand.

One of the common frames of reference was agriculture. In a largely agrarian society, everyone had some exposure. Maybe everyone had some experience.

In one story, he describes responses to the message of the kingdom. Citizens of his kingdom become citizens be choice. His message is an invitation to join his kingdom, to bow to him as king.

In the story, a farmer is planting his field. The seed he is planting becomes a symbol of the invitation message. The planting process of giving the invitation message. And the germination process becomes the person accepting the invitation, becoming a citizen of the kingdom, enjoying the benefits of a citizen and exercising the responsibilities of a citizen.

To be continued.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Seeking God - III

Another thing that would help in achieving a receptive state is quiet and no distractions. Obviously, if the main hindrance to receiving is all the distractions going on around us, minimizing those ought to be a great help in hearing God speak.

I think the primary hindrances to my personal receptivity are internal distractions. Remembering tasks, chores and appointments all yell for my attention whenever I intend to spend time with God. Not to mention the urgent, almost irresistible urge to daydream. Why does this happen? Where do all these thoughts come from?

It could be we are all mentally undisciplined. (I am assuming I am not the only one.) Of course, we don't seem to have the same problem with other things. It is not possible to be totally focused  for all three hours of a football game. (That's why they have commercials.) But most people are geared into the fourth quarter drive for the win.

If God's desire is for real relationship, then Satan's desire is to disrupt that relationship. Wouldn't he want to distract any attempt at a God-person connection? What is an easy way to disrupt that connection? Drop a small thought into the person's consciousness so it could trigger a long bout of daydreaming.

If Satan seeks to disrupt something, how important is that something to God? Be alert to consistent disruptions. Maybe it is an attack. If I could win a battle with one bullet, why would I want to drop a hydrogen bomb?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Seeking God - II

Probably the most important element involved with attaining a receptive state is "expectancy." The logic works this way.

  • Relationship requires some sort of communication.
  • God and Jesus went through a lot of trouble to establish a relationship with people. And work to maintain the relationship.
  • If a person enters a relationship with God, he should expect that god will want to communicate with him.
Most of the week, I am distracted with work, getting ready for work, and household responsibilities. Imagine going steady with someone and spending all the time at the library studying. No wonder the two of you don't get closer. No wonder she finds another guy.

Theoretically, God does not need any time to speak to you. Practically, it probably takes at least a half hour, because it will take some time to clear your mind of all the details of life and focus on what God is saying.

Seeking God

It's Saturday morning, and I'm doing something a bit unusual ... for me anyway. 

Fairly often, I will get up early and go to a coffee place. I will read, think, write, drink coffee, obviously, and seek god. Today, I am eating breakfast about an hour's drive from home. I have another hour to drive. The plan is to spend most of the day hiking in some mountains in a state park. During breakfast, I am spending about a fourth of the time I would usually spend doing the reading, writing, seeking God thing.

I find myself comparing the "productivity" I get on Saturday morning with the "productivity" of the rest of the week. If we measure productivity by journal entries -- and blog posts that are derived from journal entries -- Saturday morning beats the rest of the week hands down. (Of course, seeking God shouldn't be about productivity.)

But, why is that? God only talks to me on Saturdays? Probably not. Personally, I think God is trying to get through everyday. Probably every hour of the day. What is different about Saturdays?

I do take more time. I have nothing pressing. So, my attitude is more relaxed and more expectant. It probably has nothing to do with what I am wearing, day of the week or location. It probably has everything to do with mental and heart attitude. Days and times can affect these attitudes. They make it easier to get into a more receptive mode.

So, if God works to establish and maintain a relationship with us, then getting into a receptive mode is a vital component of that relationship. What are the steps or elements involved in receptivity?

Monday, April 09, 2012

Evangelism - II

I mentioned the conference on “power evangelism.” Jesus gave his authority to cast out demons and heal diseases. In English, power and authority are almost synonymous. In the original language of the New Testament, power is having the ability or energy to do something. Authority is having permission to use someone else’s power.

The electric company has the power. They have given me authority to use their electricity. I have permission to plug in lights, a siren, power tools, TV’s, computers or appliances. But they have the right to revoke their permission, and I will no longer have authority to use their electricity.

There are, of course, those who hold that the authority Jesus gave the Twelve and his other disciples, he gives his present day disciples. (PDD’s) So, PDD’s have the authority to case out demons and heal diseases. So, PDD’s should use the power Jesus has made available to them to demonstrate the love God has for people. So, in cold contacts or daily relations, we should take advantage of opportunities to pray for people who are sick. (Hence, it is called “power evangelism.”)

Some PDD’s hold some of God’s power is not given anymore. There is power to redeem people from sin, but not to heal fevers or repair arthritic joint damage. It is as if the electric company decided it would no longer produce 220 volt power. We can use the lights, toasters and coffer points, but not dryers and stoves.

Some PDD’s hold we are not connecting all our tools to the power grid. We connect the lights, but not the refrigerator. Which means food is spoiling.

Why do some not connect all the power tools to the grid? Why would God give some power, but not all?

Of course, the real question is: what do you do, after praying, and the person does not get out of his wheelchair? Or the pain in his neck and shoulders gets worse?

Monday, April 02, 2012


I went to a conference this weekend. The general topic was about “power evangelism.” The flow of the discussion was: this form of evangelism is legitimate, it is available for anyone to engage in, people can be successful at it, but there is fallout to deal with. We discussed a bunch of the fallout in the previous posts about availability. For example, there is risk. Risk is important, but how do we respond when we take the risk, and we fail?

But it does make me think …

When Jesus left this world after his death and resurrection, he gave us marching orders. What were these orders?

They were NOT:
  • To plant churches.
  • To multiply services.
  • To multiply campuses.
  • To power evangelize.
  • To friendship evangelize.
  • To kindness evangelize.
  • To have crusades or campaigns.
  • To have missions.
Jesus’ orders were to make disciples. To work for the development of people who will learn, grow and obey Jesus. This list above does not comprise bad things. Maybe all of them need to be practiced by God’s people. And maybe there are more things.

Every member of God’s family ought to be involved in his mission, in completing his marching orders. Making disciples involves:
  • Planting ideas that will grow into conviction and decisions to follow Jesus.
  • Walking with, explaining and modeling ideas and lifestyles that agree with Jesus’ teaching.
  • Facilitating growth, exercise, a proper atmosphere, healthy inputs – physical, psycho-emotional, spiritual, social and cultural.
There are a number of plans, methods and practices to promote godly transformation of individuals, societies and cultures. God’s people need to be involved in all phases. To use an agricultural metaphor, they need to be there to cultivate the soil, to plant seed, to water, weed and fertilize, and, finally, to reap. As well as storing, cooking and eating. And each branch of Jesus’ family should be involved in all plans, methods, practices and phases.

I guess I am encouraging of viewpoint of “there is no silver bullet.” There is faith, love, risk and obedience, with no guarantee, as I act in this moment, of success.

For the sake of clarity:
  • The goal is not churches or decisions, but men and women who choose to follow Jesus and are growing in all ways of doing and being that.
  • All followers of Jesus should have direct involvement in the processes of persuasion, assimilation, training and stimulating growth.
  • There are multiple means to accomplish this. None should be rejected, as long as the method obeys Jesus.