Saturday, June 18, 2016

God's Expectation of Unity

Now people were bringing little children to him for him to touch, but the disciples scolded those who brought them.  But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”  After he took the children in his arms, he placed his hands on them and blessed them.

-- Mark 10:13-16 New English Translation

What a wonderful lesson about God's love for children.  That is probably the most common teaching about this New Testament account as well.  Yet as I read this passage this week, I began to realize a different message in light of the desire of God for unity in his people.  Here's what struck me.

Jesus was rather annoyed at the prospect of someone deciding for someone else what their level of access to Him should be.  Well-meaning disciples, reasoned that little children would be an annoyance to Jesus, a bother.  Well, He was very quick to dispel that thought process.  In fact, Jesus went so far as to inform all who were in attendance that the attitude of these little children was what was expected of anyone who desired a place in the Kingdom of God.

What attitude?  -- An attitude unfettered by worry, not too busy to have quality time with Him, willing and eager to play, and most importantly an innate understanding that in Jesus is more than enough love and compassion for EVERY child at the gathering.

This attitude, modeled for us by our king, is to be re-modeled by us as His ambassadors is it not?  Our great commission is to tell the world what He first explained to us.  Our great commandment is to love Him and to love others with His love that lives within us.

So far so good?  Well consider this...

Recently a commission of Spirit-filled leaders paid a visit to Pope Francis in Rome.  He asked for this meeting in order to better understand first why the Spirit-filled believer's lifestyle was so attractive to other Christians, and also I believe, to seek the unity that has not existed in the Christian churches since the fourth century AD.  There are numerous accounts of these recent meetings in blog posts and social media, and one thing seems pretty clear.  Pope Francis is a Spirit-filled Jesus follower.  That may have a profound effect on the Roman Catholic Church in the coming years...and on your own!

So if we are to begin to realize a re-unification in God's Church, that will mean that we will begin to encounter folks that are foreign to us spiritually, traditionally, and who may not fit our particular denominational (or yes, non-denominational) mold.  But come they will, seeking answers, seeking truth, but most of all, seeking Jesus.

What has any of this to do with Mark 10?

Replace Jesus in that story with yourself for a moment.  As His ambassador, your job is to speak with His voice, to love with His love, and to work with His hands.  Now imagine instead of those little children that you will see the people I spoke of in the paragraph above.  Seeking truth, seeking validation spiritually, seeking Jesus.  

Will there be any value to a contingent of "helpers" who in grave error push these people away?  Certainly not!  And it will be up to His ambassadors to speak for those who are coming, and to welcome them as part of God's Unified Kingdom, just as they are.  They may not look like me, talk like me, live like me, speak my particular brand of christain-ese, or meet my high moral standards, but one thing is certain:  Jesus called them.  Who am I to turn them away?

A place of unity among the many churches is a thing of beauty, and it is also a thing expected by Jesus.  As we meet one another, as children meet other children, may our conversations begin, 

"Will you be my friend?"

"After he took the children in his arms, he placed his hands on them and blessed them."

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A New Word

For a long while now I have come to loathe the word "revival". I know it's just a word, and we mean it for good, yet why would we speak of the past when we really mean, and really need the future? Why would I speak of being dead when that is all "I" have ever been?

To be revived means to be returned to life, or to be returned to a former state. It supposes first that "I" am either dead, or that my current status is somehow lacking from some time in the past. Do I remember some time that was somehow better with God? Am I yearning to return to a point in time that was spiritually more fulfilling? What about the God of the Bible suggests that this is the sort of relationship that I want with Him, or better yet, that He wants with me?

As one who is well steeped in American evangelical churching and it's notion of "revival", and particularly the conservative Southern variety, I can only hope in my heart of hearts that this is NOT what we really mean (or want) when we use this word. My historical picture of revival is a week-long series of church services conspicuous by the requirement that he who preaches be from the outside...a revivalist. You can keep that term as well. My heart wants nothing to do with it either.

God is speaking today, and loudly, that he wishes encounter. Real, personal, life-changing, Spirit-led encounter. You see, before I come to Jesus, I am dead in my sinful nature. Then when I open that door upon which Jesus knocks, I encounter all three persons of the trinity. Notably, being "saved" means a confirmation of my death, not a resurrection of MY life; rather a confirmation of the resurrection of the life of Jesus in me! The Spirit of Christ lives in me. Jesus mediates on my behalf to the greatest Father of all. I have no need to be revived thank-you-very-much. But I have an insatiable need for encounter.

"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."

Encounter is about drawing nearer still. It says, "More of You God! I hunger and thirst for You!". Nowhere do I find or sense God telling his people to return to a former state of relationship with Him. Yes, His chosen nation wavered, wandered and wondered, but God's call wasn't for them to return to a previous state. It was always a call to return to intimate relationship, and to a relationship that would grow and blossom, and be able to handle the unlimited nature of His promise.

Well that promise lives in me and it need not be revived. The Promise seeks encounter. That's the new word.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Enter In

Something has stirred in me about worship.   I have heard a few perspectives lately, and they seem to be coalescing.

In the New Testament we learn that, as believers, we are a royal priesthood.  As a priest, our one "career" is to minister to God.  As part of the King's royal family, we enjoy unfettered access to the throne room and His presence.

We can enter into the presence of the King at ANY moment, without being summoned.  Christ finished this work on the cross!  I need not ask permission to enter, I need not examine my own worthiness, because there is no such thing.  I am DECLARED worthy by the King.  I may ALWAYS enter minister to Him, for that is my "career" as His priest.

"Boldly approach the throne of grace..."

Here's a great piece of news.  God decides the "how" of my ministry to Him.  So in worship, I may boldly approach to receive my assignment from the King of Glory!  He is, after all, the audience of One.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The King is Coming

"Look, a righteous king is coming!  And honest princes will rule under him. Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a parched land.  Then everyone who has eyes will be able to see the truth, and everyone who has ears will be able to hear it. Even the hotheads will be full of sense and understanding.  Those who stammer will speak out plainly."

-- Isaiah 32:1-4 NLT

I have been reading a multi-thousand-page series of fictional novels about a mythical medieval land that has been rocked by a murdered king and all of the machinations surrounding the struggle to sit upon that vacant throne.  This event threw the land into a chaotic situation where five claimant kings vie for power. In the current book, one king, the only king who truly has a right to the throne, is on the move and he is intent on claiming what is rightfully his.  City by city he begins to conquer, win over or cajole the major lords and chieftans as he sweeps toward the seat of power.

There is also a wave in our world today that is bringing the people of the Earth in line with the one true king who has the only rightful claim to the throne of our hearts as well as the throne of His creation.  Jesus Christ is his name.

As the mythical king goes from conquest to conquest, his army forms up around him, and he sends scouts to see what the enemy might have in the way of numbers and armament and provisions.  The scouts can also detect any sympathies that the local population may have to the rightful king, to see if they might side with him in the battle to come.  In victory these sympathizers will be rewarded.

So it is with our King Jesus.  There are no questions about the Enemy however.  Jesus knows him intimately.  But the Holy Spirit scouts the land and searches for people who are sensitive to Him, who want more of Him, who will surrender to Him, and who are willing to engage in the fight WITH Him.  His glory will pour out on His true followers.

"[U]ntil at last the Spirit is poured out on us from heaven.  Then the wilderness will become a fertile field, and the fertile field will yield bountiful crops.  Justice will rule in the wilderness and righteousness in the fertile field.  And this righteousness will bring peace.  Yes, it will bring quietness and confidence forever.  My people will live in safety, quietly at home.  They will be at rest."

-- Isaiah 32:15-18 NLT

Make no mistake, the King is coming!  The question to answer is whether we will be standing with Him, or standing idly by as others join in with Him for His glory.

Monday, March 18, 2013


"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”  

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

-- Romans 8:35-39 ESV

"[M]ore than conquerors"....

Soak in that for a moment.

In the context of Paul the citizen, the conqerors were the Romans; an empire who ruled a fair portion of the world that was known to the people of Palestine and Asia Minor.  In the context of Paul the Israelite, when they had claimed the Promised Land, it was not uncommon to bring the existing settlement or city to utter ruin including all of the farm lands, cattle and sometimes, even people.  No tillable ground was left for the enemy to replant.  No stone left upon another.

The life of a committed follower "in Christ Jesus" sits ATOP these definitions of conqerors as "more than conqerors".  Ponder the implications of this.  No matter the circumstances of life, no matter the difficulties, no matter the distress that appears unbearable, being "in Christ" gives one access to the power, the love, and the self-control or a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:6-7) to lay waste to any strongholds in the natural life, so there will be no fertile ground for our Enemy to replant seeds of destruction.

Paul's prayer was that we understand this position of "more than conqerors" and walk in it.  Notice again the appearance of power, love and self-control or a sound mind to comprehend.  He prayed:

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

-- Ephesians 3:14-21

Thursday, March 07, 2013

He Fights

I watched the first few minutes of a mini-series on the History Channel called, "Vikings". Hey, I'm a guy, how am I going to resist a show called "Vikings"?!

The main character takes his 12 year old son to the "city" for the rite of passage of becoming a man, and to hear the "assignments" from their liege lord for the coming year. You see, this man is apparently some sort of soldier for hire.

On their journey to the city, they have made camp and recline by the fire to rest for the night. The father begins a conversation with his son which I found intriguing.

"Are you ready to receive your arm ring and become a man?"


"And what does a man do?"

"He fights."


"He looks after his family."

From the mind of a 12 year old comes his picture of manhood; a picture he has painted primarily from watching his father. It occurs to me that our world today is not so different. We men demonstrate manhood to our sons by our actions every day. We teach them to fight, but for what? We fight, sometimes physically, sometimes politically, sometimes emotionally, or we fight in our dedication to things. For things like cars or sports teams or clothes or whatever the toy of the day might be. We teach them to fight on behalf of their flesh. But do we teach them the value of their heart? That their heart is worth fighting for? Jesus thought my heart was worth fighting for or he would never have come.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. -- John 10:10 ESV

An abundant life begins in the heart.

This passage in John 10 speaks about how the Good Shepherd fights for his sheep. Jesus fought and died for your heart. For your son's heart to be in Christ, that is certainly something worth fighting for.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Carrying On

Isaiah 46:3-4 ESV

"Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save."

Before we were knit in our mother's womb, He carried us.
When we broke forth into the light of this world, He carried us.
Day by day, even as we believe that we carry ourselves, He carries us.
As our eyes begin to grow dim, He will carry us.
When our Earthly time is done, He will carry us -- AWAY!