Sunday, November 30, 2008

Drafts

The Enjoying the Adventure blog has 4 or 5 posts still in draft form. Hopefully, some of them will be completed over the next few days.

One thing Sandy and I have taken time for is to express our thanks to God for the great time we had with our kids. All of them were here for Thanksgiving! Justin and Erika went back to Boston on Friday, Josh and Joanna fly back to GA tomorrow afternoon, and Miss Meagan will get back to Milledgeville on Tuesday in time for late morning classes.

Just before church started this morning, I stood in the church foyer gazing at the white stuff as it gently fell to the earth. Nothing serious. Church attendance was unaffected -- actually very good -- in spite of the nasty weather and the fact that the Patriots are playing at home (more things to give thanks for)! Throughout the day precipitation has come in all forms -- from rain-to-sleet-to-snow.

Also, we want to tell our friends how grateful we are for all of you. We hope that the last few days have been a time of reflecting on God's goodness, refreshing rest, and reunion with family and others dear to you.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Reorientated

Have you understood all these things? Jesus asked. Yes, they [disciples] replied.

Jesus said to them, Therefore every teacher of the law [scribe] who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old. ~ Matthew 13:51-52

Jesus had been teaching the about the kingdom of heaven using parables. Sometimes he spoke publicly to crowds, other times privately to his disciples. The passage above was spoken to the disciples.

Jesus said that they were the new scribes of the kingdom message. What did that mean? If you trace the history of the scribes you can go all the way back to Ezra. Ezra shows up in the book of Nehemiah -- he was the one who stood on the wooden platform, read the law, and then explained it. That event launched a spiritual and scriptural revival that reorientated God's people to His purposes.

As the years passed the scribes became maniacally committed to protecting the Law. In doing so, they began to add their own safeguards. Soon traditions superseded the actual law itself. When you read through the gospels, you witness Jesus in red hot debates, excoriating the scribes for diluting or completely disguising the true Word in a maze of man-made traditions.

The kingdom parables of Matthew 13 make up the backdrop that led to Jesus' question, Do you understand all these things. He was confirming that his disciples were reoriented to the core message of the kingdom message. That was important, because Jesus authorized them as the new scribes with fresh authority to bring the kingdom message to the world.

Jesus' words hold great relevancy for Christ followers today -- those who have been reacquainted with the core message of the gospel. Once again, the old message is finding a new audience. Those who have been reorientated to the message of the kingdom are empowered with kingdom authority to bring the undiluted message to our work-a-day world.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ex Nihilo

Genesis, the first book of the Bible, begins this way, In the beginning God created . . . All that now makes up our physical world was created in six days. And to think that He magnificently constructed it all Ex Nihilo -- a Latin phrase meaning -- out of nothing.

Humanity traces backwards to those first days in the Genesis story. We are told that of all God's creation, we are the pinnacle. Reading the story, we can see that like our Creator we, too, are creative. No, we can't create out of nothing, but the evidence is undeniable, we are creators.

Adam and Eve were designed with enough creativity to catalogue every animal and cultivate every form of vegetation. Follow their family tree from the roots up and their offspring were no different. Jabal probably decided that everyone else could continue to sleep under trees, in dank caves, or under the stars, but one day the architect gene emerged, an idea formed, and he designed and built a tent. From then on tents were everyone's home.

Did Jubal, day-after-day, listen to the wind whistle through the trees, and the low moan it produced as it passed by the entrance of a cave? Did the happy sound of water tumbling over rocks and stones, or songbirds twittering melodically bring him more pleasure than others? We are not sure. But one day a latent, musical chord was struck in his heart, and he was the first to create music with wind and stringed instruments -- he fashioned the lyer and flute (Bob Dylan copied him and used a guitar and a harmonica).

Then there is Tubal-Cain. He probably got tired of blistered and cut hands or digging with a stick -- he was the first to fashion tools out of iron and bronze (I got none of those genes).

Amazing.

Even as I write I get a sense of satisfaction. I am quick to confess though, I have read too much, seen too much, and experienced too much to be completely original (but I do have a bad memory and that helps). But nonetheless, I am creating. God gives me a muse, some raw materials, a desire I can't shove down, and a voice I can't silence. Putting my thoughts down for myself and others to read, and the accompanying joy that comes with it, has come late in life.

But I am a creator -- never Ex-Nihilo. But I am a creator -- the Creator made me that way.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Big Dream-Big World

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought the field. ~ Matthew 13:44

You cannot begin to live the dream God has for you until you stop caring about only yourself. And the smaller your span of concern, the smaller your dream will be and the smaller your life will become. ~ Erwin McManus (Wide Awake)

Clearly, Christ highly values the kingdom and kingdom people -- to him we are a treasure. But, it is also important to note that Jesus not only saw the value of his kingdom, but he also saw the value of the field. The parable tells us, in his joy went and sold all he had and bought the field.

Laying it all on the line to secure the kingdom and the world brought Jesus great joy.

I point that out because we, as Christ followers, can develop a tendency of putting no value on those things that lay outside the boundaries of the kingdom. It becomes second nature for all of our energies -- physical and spiritual -- to be exhausted caring for the well-being of other believers. But if that becomes the entire span of our concern, our world will eventually collapse inward. And if we devalue the larger field [world] our impact will be far less than Christ had in mind. We become small and so, too, our world.

So . . .

Do we highly value the kingdom? Absolutely!

But do we neglect the world within which the kingdom exists? Absolutely not!

Dream big and live big!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

All Over The Place

This week, our temperatures in southeast Massachusetts will sink into the teens like a rock. Like a man carrying a heavy load up a long, steep hill, the mercury will slowly ascend into the mid 30's, as the sun makes it way above the horizon. A flurry of the white stuff is predicted for Tuesday. Thanksgiving season is usually rolls out the welcome mat letting Old Man Winter know it's time to come and stay for a while.

Also . . .

One of my friends called just a while ago -- just before sundown he bagged a trophy buck -- it will score around 150! He has been stalking the big boy all fall. Richard and I have kept in touch swapping hunting tips since I left the sunbelt. The only way I could be happier for my friend's success is if I, too, were peering out of a tree stand. I really miss Georgia -- Free America.

Earlier today . . .

This morning my wife interceded on my behalf and gathered a few friends in my office to pray over me before this morning's service. The last 72 hours have been a spiritual wrestling match as I struggled with confusion and an inability to concentrate. You may be familiar with the story -- when the deliverer of God's Word has something significant to say, the enemy overloads the mental circuits with a lot of static. Prayer prevailed and all went well.

Interestingly, the big idea of today's message revolved around the parable of the Lost Treasure. In his story, Jesus communicated that his kingdom is hidden in the world, and he alone could see it. Christ alone can see the potential of his kingdom people, so Christ alone can show us the life worth pursuing. In his joy, not grudgingly, Jesus gave all that he had to secure for us this fulfilling future. I think that truth -- the potential God alone sees in his people -- catalyzed the great resistance that braced me the entire weekend.

Why wouldn't the evil one go to work to disengage the speaker and deprive the hearer from such a message? Think how differently we would live our life if we could see our truest self -- the one that God alone sees.

Today's post has covered a lot of ground. It's sort of been all over the place -- like its writer. Nonetheless, I am enjoying the Adventure.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Fresh Look

It has been a longer than I would prefer since the last post. A lack of writing is in no way congruent with the amount of activity in Sandy's life and mine. Little grass has grown beneath our feet since we unloaded our furniture. Thankfully, we are seeing a lot of new people attending the church, and there is always the adjustment to God's work in a place so different from the Southeast.

Since arriving, I have been teaching through the kingdom parables. Unless I get a sense that God would have us take a different direction we will stay with the teachings of Jesus for the next year. Rather than taking for granted that we, as a community of faith, are on the same page, we are going to take a fresh look at what Christ had in mind for his church.

More later . . .

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Highly Visible and Vulnerable

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed . . .the kingdom of heaven is like . . .yeast mixed into a large amount of flour . . .Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables . . .so was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world. ~ Matthew 13:31-35

Jesus did not explain the meaning of the parable of the mustard seed, and the yeast in the large amount of flour. Because of Jesus' silence, these two stories are open to a lot of discussion and interpretation. However, I feel quite sure that Jesus intended all the parables to fit together and give us a multi-faceted understanding of the nature of the kingdom of heaven.

For a mustard seed to grow to the size of a tree, it had to experience supernatural growth. If we go to the scriptures, it is plain to see that in the gospels and in the book of Acts, the kingdom grew explosively and supernaturally. In the gospels, John the Baptist's announcement of the arrival of the king and the kingdom of heaven provoked phenomenal happenings. People from all over Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region of the Jordan, flocked to John's message. From the time Jesus began to speak of the kingdom, thousands of people frantically found their way to him. The advance was explosive.

In the book of Acts we see the kingdom advancing exponentially, supernaturally, and spiritually from Pentecost to the last pages of the Acts record. The presence of the kingdom was highly visible and supernatural, just like the mustard seed that grew to the size of a tree. Ever since then, supernatural and highly visible growth of the kingdom has been rare. With the exception of scattered awakenings throughout the centuries, the advance of the kingdom has been slow.

In the parable, Jesus may have given us a hint as to why those epoch advances were so short lived. In the mustard tree sat birds. In Jesus' parable of the sower and the seed -- birds represented the evil one who stole away the seed of God's Word. Is it not safe to assume that the birds in the mustard tree tell us that in the midst of great movements of God -- we are most vulnerable?

Where is the gospel of the kingdom working around you right now? Be aware of the evil that will be lurking in the wings -- whose objective is to steal away the miracle-making Word of God!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

POTUS

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~ Jesus Christ

Never in my lifetime have I witnessed the world so frenzied and focused on one day -- Election Day -- for the next President of the United States.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

If?

Charles Krauthammer quotes Winston Churchill as saying,

If you're not a liberal when you're 20, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative when you're 40, you have no head.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Right Place or Wrong Place?

[The disciples asked Jesus] Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field. Jesus answered, 'The one who sowed the good seed is the son of Man. The Field is the world, and good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.' ~ Matthew 13:37-39 (The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds)

God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time. A sense of destiny is our birthright as followers of Christ. God is awfully good at getting us where he wants us to go. But here's the catch: The right place often seems like the wrong place, and the right time often seems like the wrong time. ~
Mark Batterson (In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day)

To explain the nature of God's kingdom, Jesus used parables. Parables were simple, earthy stories that very effectively helped inquiring learners make sense of complex truths. After Jesus told the disciples the parable of the wheat and the weeds, the disciples were curious to know more about the weeds.

Jesus explained that the weeds represented the sons of the evil one, and the wheat represented the sons of the kingdom. Both were placed in a field. The field represents the world. God owned the field. To understand the weeds, the disciples would first need to know that they (the wheat) were purposefully and strategically placed in the world (field), and that Christ's kingdom would advance as others like them, sons of the kingdom, multiplied. That would be crucial in understanding the significance of the weeds.

Knowing that, the disciples would understand that the sons of the evil one were also purposely and strategically placed in the world. In short, Jesus wanted the disciples to know that they would always be surrounded by those in the world, who were not yet in his kingdom.

Here is the beautiful part . . .

In kingdom work the disciples would need to know that the right place may often seem like the wrong place. And right timing may often seem like the wrong timing. Why such a paradox? Because the norm of their life would be that of being strategically plunked down in the shadow of the devil's workmanship. If they rejected that fact they might conclude that being in dark (worldly) places meant they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their first priority could easily become a series of boundless extremes to wall themselves off from contact with the world. But the spiritual reality is: God, by design, put them in the world in the right place at the right time. And so it is with us -- we infiltrate rather than isolate -- that is how the kingdom is advanced.

One more thought -- humility reminds us that at one time we, too, were weeds. Only by the miracle of transformation was our very nature changed -- from sons of the evil one -- to sons of the kingdom. Amen.