Creating thirst for the Kingdom of God

Reading for Today:

Psalm 70, 71, 74
Gen. 42:29-38
1 Cor. 6:12-20
Mark 4:21-34

The beauty of walking through Scripture on a regular basis is we can keep gaining from familiar territory. Too often, we may read too quickly because we get a mentality of, “Well, I know that story.” Regular rhythms that have us constantly in Scripture can be helpful, though. It helps create thirst.  Read more

Treasuring Jesus

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 that field. (Matt. 13:44)

The reason I follow Jesus is simple. He is beautiful. The Kingdom surpasses anything else I can find as a treasure. He is worth all.

There is a cost to following Jesus. There is a cost to NOT following Jesus. We need to weigh each out. And the cost is so worth the treasure that is Christ. Nothing compares.

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The curse of abundance

Soaking up the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 for the past couple of days, it is a mirror for us as American Christians. There is an examination of the heart we can make out of this parable. It’s not one we’ve done so far, and it may be doubtful we’ll look too deep now, but it’s a necessary examination.

The problems of the seed not taking root are not blamed on poverty. If the word doesn’t take root, it’s because the soil hasn’t been plowed up. It’s not a matter of persecution being the problem. Persecution in this parable is a given. The problem in the weeds isn’t a “lack,” it’s an abundance.

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If a multiplication of the richness of the Kingdom isn’t happening in our lives as the word is revealed to us, it is our laziness that is at the root.

When we allow the deceitfulness of riches to distract us, we create something that looks good but isn’t bearing fruit. We need fruit in the American Church. Fruit doesn’t mean numbers. It’s the character of the King.

When we bear the fruit of the Kingdom, we’re not walking in fear. The American Church is walking in fear right now. There is a look that is “good,” but underneath is a rumbling of fear because we’re “losing our rights.” We’ve become so Americanized, we can’t see the benefit of actually losing something. We’re threatened by the smallest things. The deceitfulness of riches (and the “riches” of having so many “freedoms”) have led us to a place where we look good but we’re not bearing fruit.

It is time to plow up the ground of our hearts. That plowing, that preparation, is up to us. It is not a call for “revival” in the sense of we show up to church and the Spirit “sovereignly” falls.

It is a call to sit with a Bible open, a heart open, maybe a journal of some sort nearby, and no one else is looking. It is a call to PLOW, which means we don’t read the Word once and all of a sudden we have a “revelation.” We stay at it… and stay at it… and then “all of a sudden,” the Word “opens” to us. We need a new tenacity to stay at the Word and stay at prayer and “miraculously” the Spirit shows up!

We need a revival of one.

You.

Me.

Plow the ground. Find the treasure.

My Name is Legion

 

Greed isn’t about being rich

Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Guard yourself against all kinds of greed. After all, one’s life isn’t determined by one’s possessions, even when someone is very wealthy.” (Luke 12:15)

If we could easily identify “greed” as just a dollar amount, it would be so much easier. We often try to put a dollar amount on greed… and then tax it.

The warning is against all kinds of greed. The story Jesus then tells concerns a farmer who has enough storage for himself, but then his crop is bigger than his storage, so he builds bigger barns. He looked ahead for his provision.

At face value, there is a lot of American good in that very short story. He looked ahead. He thought of his retirement. He didn’t want to “be a burden” on anyone else…

And Jesus says God judged him that night.

Included in that “all kinds of greed” is the greed that doesn’t look out for others as well. There is a temptation to think the “bonus” we get is just for us. The failure is to check in with God and ask what that “bonus” may have as a purpose in our lives.

“All kinds of greed” doesn’t have a dollar amount. Another component is looking for more… just for more. It’s not seeing “the other” in our lives. It’s allowing the thought that the god of Mammon can be enough for us.

There are “all kinds of greed” we need to be aware of in our lives. We need a greater awareness of the resources we have in our lives, and how God might want us to use them.

 

Culture Wars

I grew up in a great political era. Honestly.

My family was very aware of the news and it was discussed at the dinner table. I was a political geek, knowing the names of the Supreme Court justices, the leaders of the Congress, and many key cabinet leaders in the sitting president’s cabinet.

I knew key world leaders. Key events interested me.

It was also the time of the Moral Majority and the big issue was abortion. Political action was part of life growing up for me.

Political action is still an interest, but it isn’t life.

Do I still believe in right actions? Yes.

Do I still believe there are actions that bring blessing and actions that bring curses… or consequences? Absolutely.

I fundamentally believe there is a way that is God’s best in our lives that will bring us incredible freedom, blessing, and some definition of abundance that doesn’t always include multiple houses, cars, and planes.

I also believe fundamentally that outside the work of the Spirit the fundamental understanding of just how that blessing works can be “hit” from time to time, but living in it, with the understanding of eternal blessing, is nigh impossible.

Over the years I’ve come to an understanding that working from the outside in is a fruitless effort. We act from the inside out.

I don’t say, “You can’t legislate morality,” because I deeply believe morality is legislated all the time. Someone’s deep belief in how the world, or at least a culture, should work gets pushed ahead into legislative and legal action. We legislate someone’s morality all the time.

But that is not the issue for me. The issue is the Kingdom of God. The issue is the beauty of Jesus and the pursuit I have in treasuring Jesus. It is the pursuit of my life and I want to draw others into pursuing his beauty as well.

So, for me, culture wars are just crazy now. They will still go on and I can easily say it’s not just conservatives that wage that war. It is liberals, and now it is their turn in winning. But, that is life.

The parable that has helped me understand I need to hold these issues in this world more loosely is the parable of the wheat and the weeds.

When Jesus explains this parable later in Matthew 13, he essentially says the Father will work this all out.

I still vote, even though I hold my nose to do so more and more. I still have deep held opinions on every action we take as Americans and still voice those opinions. But disagreement over abortion, gay marriage, food stamps, healthcare, etc., is not going to send opponents to hell… or heaven.

It is the heart and life that follows Christ, treasures the Kingdom, and obeys that will find itself harvested and saved. THAT is what I most cherish.

In the meantime, at least according to this parable, we are growing in this mess together. You may think I’m a weed. I may think you’re a weed. You may think I’m just weird… and I you.

But I want to treasure Jesus and I desire for others to simply treasure Jesus. He will sort this out in the end and we will all be wonderfully (and sometimes painfully) surprised.

Parables

“The parables, in fact, are told as kingdom explanations for Jesus’s kingdom actions. They are saying: ‘Don’t be surprised, but this is what it looks like when God’s in charge.’ They are not ‘abstract teaching,’ and indeed if we approach them like that, we won’t understand them at all.”
— N T Wright, Simply Jesus