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Letting Go of the Kingdom

Something about us, as human beings, wants to be in control. When we feel in control, we are comfortable and at peace; when we feel out of control, we tend to feel stressed and unsure. In truth, though we often act otherwise, there is very little we have actual control over. We can, to some extent, control ourselves: our thoughts and emotions, our actions and reactions, but even those play out better when we release control to the Holy Spirit.

Human control yields human results. It does not follow that those achievements are never impressive – we, as created in the image of God, are capable of wonderful and sometimes unbelievable things. However, no matter how astounding, the accomplishments of man are always, and only, man-made.

Submitting to God’s control will yield supernatural results. This so easily rolls off the tongue, although it’s anything but easy to do. Everything in us fights against letting go, and the uncertainty and “what-ifs” pile up and take over. Letting go, though, is the only way to “let God” do what only he can do through us. It’s leaving the security of the shore and jumping into the rushing current of God’s will, lifting up our feet and being carried wherever he takes us. In the end, we just have to trust God, not to do what we want him to do, but what he wants to do. If we can do that, look out. God things are going to happen!

So how do we “let go and let God?” Jesus gave his followers the answer in his last extended time with them:

“I am the vine. You are the branches. If you remain joined to me, and I to you, you will bear a lot of fruit. You can’t do anything without me.” (John 15)

“Bearing fruit,” or being effective in the work God has laid out for us, depends completely on our connection to Jesus. Put another way, if our eyes are on Jesus, fruit grows; but if our eyes are looking for fruit, nothing happens.

As uncomfortable as it is, we need to release our control over the kingdom work in which we are involved, letting go of our expectations for the results we want to see, and choosing instead to live in the unknown and unexpected, but better, control of God.

Who Gets the Glory?

In the world of cross- and counter-cultural work and ministry, we are often tempted to think that success, advancement, or victory have something to do with us: our abilities, our training, our gifting, our commitment, and our sacrifice. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Don’t get us wrong in that statement. We do have roles to play. Jesus asks us to show our love for him by being obedient to him. God has chosen to gift us, and to use us, and for that we are grateful, but…

If we are totally honest with ourselves, we would say (along with Amy Grant), “When it all comes down, if there’s anything good that happens in life, it’s from Jesus.”

We each need to be reminded daily that we are not our own, we were purchased at a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20), who gets the glory, and by whose power we live each day (Acts 17:28). We all need these reminders so here are some for today:

  • For what you are able to accomplish for the kingdom today, give thanks.
  • For the things that you have and enjoy today, give thanks.
  • For the relationships that you have and depend on today, give thanks.
  • For God’s free gifts of sun, rain and all the beauty that surrounds us, give thanks.
  • For the relationship with God that you have because of Jesus, give thanks.
  • For the very air you breathe and for every beat of your heart, give thanks.

 

 

“When it all comes down

When it all comes down

If there’s anything good that happens in life

It’s from Jesus.”

A Kingdom of Diversity

It doesn’t take long to realize how wildly diverse the Kingdom of God is. There are Christ-followers from nearly every people group in the world, including men and women, young and old, rich and poor…all participating in a vast variety of worship traditions and styles. This diversity brings many advantages, but some challenges as well. Perhaps you have noticed, but we don’t always “play well together.”

This is not a new problem. The apostle Paul addresses it in his letter to the church in Colossi:

You have started living a new life. Your knowledge of how that life should have the Creator’s likeness is being made new.  Here there is no Gentile or Jew. There is no difference between those who are circumcised and those who are not. There is no rude outsider, or even a Scythian. There is no slave or free person. But Christ is everything. And he is in everything. (Colossians 3:10-11)

In a similar passage to the church in Galatia he adds that in Christ there is no male or female.

Obviously, all these differences do exist. There are gender differences, racial differences, social differences, educational differences, etc. but in Christ, those differences hold no value. We are all equal at the foot of the cross.

So how do we live in such a diverse kingdom? How do we move forward together, working for kingdom growth, without fighting with each other?

We need to be honest with ourselves about our weakness and brokenness. None of us have it all together. None of us have the corner on truth. None of us are without issues that we need the Holy Spirit to redeem. We are no better than anyone else. We are TOTALLY dependent on God’s mercy and grace.

We need to be humble in our relationships. Simply put, we need to consider others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Humility can not co-exist with a judgmental attitude. The minute we start looking down on others, we have moved from humility to its archenemy, pride.

We need to forgive each other (as God, in Christ, has forgiven us, Ephesians 4:32). Forgiveness is critical because no matter how hard we try, we will still sometimes fail in our relationships. We will hurt and offend each other, even those we love dearly. If our hearts can forgive, granting mercy and grace to each other, that demonstrates Christ to the people around us.

Finally, we need to love each other. This one is the hardest. God-like love involves self-sacrifice. We can convince ourselves to make sacrifices for family or close friends, but Jesus tells us also to love those we despise. He actually demonstrated this love he talked about by dying on the cross for us, while we were still enemies of the kingdom! (Romans 5:8)

If we can do all of this, the communities around us will see Jesus and want to know more about him. This can only happen through the power of the Holy Spirit. May he have freedom to move in and through us!

We are at War

Several years ago, Charles Colson wrote a book entitled “Kingdoms in Conflict,” in which he outlines some of the battlefields laid out between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of spiritual darkness on earth. As ambassadors for the King of Heaven, we should expect to be fully engaged in that conflict on a daily basis. As warriors in this battle, we must keep the following in mind.

Firstly, this battle is invisible to the naked eye. The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 that we don’t fight against flesh and blood but against rulers of the spiritual darkness. This means that people are not the enemy, no matter how strongly they stand against the kingdom. Those are the people we need to pray for and work to reach with the gospel. The enemy and his forces are spiritual and, though invisible, very real, and it is their influence in the world and people around us that we fight against.

Secondly, we have tremendous weaponry at our disposal:

The Word of God – Later in Ephesians 6, the word of God is referred to as the sword of the Spirit. Jesus used scripture to respond to Satan’s attacks, and so turned him away. We can do the same thing. In addition, Jesus is the living word of God and his spirit lives within us as a spiritual sword to use in battle. How practiced are we at wielding this sword?

Prayer – We often think of prayer as such a simple thing; how could it actually be effective in a spiritual battle? We forget that prayer brings to bear the power of God. Jesus told his disciples that God would do whatever they asked in his name; however, every prayer is not always answered in the way we imagine. That goes beyond what we can understand, but scripture and church history do clearly reveal that prayer is powerful and effective in battle, both physical and spiritual. How much time are we spending each day in prayer for victory in the battle around us?

Love – Self-sacrificing love is what brings about our victory in the end. Jesus laid down his life for us out of love. Love wins the battle. As we love others, we participate in that victory. In what ways are we demonstrating God’s love for others as he demonstrated his love for us?

Obedience – We would all still be enemies of God if Jesus had not obeyed the Father’s plan. Obedience releases God’s power into our circumstances, while rebellion against God’s will plays into the enemy’s hand. As Moses obeyed God and held his hands up to heaven, the armies of Israel were winning on the battlefield; as Moses let his hands fall, the tide of the battle turned against Israel. What is God asking you to do today?

Finally, let’s remember that we are in this battle together and that we should rely on each other. We are Jesus to each other. May the question never be asked, “Where was God when…?” God was and is present in us always.

“Of this be certain, I am always with you…from now until the very end.”

Are You Authentically You?

What does it mean to be authentic? We are all pretty sure we know ourselves, but authenticity is more than that. Most of us are not always who we SAY we are.

As Christ-followers and ambassadors for his kingdom, integrity is important. Our actions should match our words. We have many idioms for this concept:

Walk the talk.
Actions speak louder than words.
Live life out loud.

The Bible speaks to this as well. In 1 John 3:18 we find these words (paraphrased), “My dear family, let’s not just say that we love each other; but instead, let our actions say it truthfully for us.”

What does this look like in real life? How would we be different if we always lived out what we say we believe?

Jesus gave us a good idea. He was loved by all the “wrong” people, and misunderstood, hated, and eventually killed by those who thought themselves righteous. He always saw the needs of others as a priority. He demonstrated his love by dying for us, even while we were still “enemies” of his kingdom. How can we apply this in our lives?

First, think carefully about what you say. Most of us are too quick to judge others, while we secretly have our own issues. We look past the log in our eye to “help” our friends with specks in theirs.

Second, when you do speak, let your words be full of grace and truth…just as Jesus was.

Finally, when your actions and words don’t match, come clean. Apologize. Ask for forgiveness from those you offend and from God.

We are there with you, in the trenches, trying to be authentic each day. We are stronger together. Love on!