Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Look Around You

Once in a while my husband quotes the phrase; "so heavenly minded your no earthly good". 
 I love that statement because it goes straight a point of truth. 
 It is so easy to become entangled in our minds.  Our thoughts can consume our days and sap our energy for anything else.  We can become prideful and arrogant because we have become enamored with our own beliefs.  1 Cor. 8:1 says; "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up".  Knowledge can be like a lot of hot air, puffing up in our head and hearts.  But love is a an action.  It has substance and produces fruit.

The Bible says that we are "prepared for works of service" Eph 4:12.  That is, whatever transformation God works within us is not an end to itself. 

 It is transformation for a purpose.  

 Our "talents" are to be used and multiplied.  That we may "live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way;  bearing fruit in every good work" Col. 1:10
When we read the scriptures regarding the life of Christ, we read his words AND his works.  He
Himself said his works validated his claim of being the Son of God.

Is it possible that we keep our heads in such spiritual loftiness that sometimes we miss out on the opportunities that are opened to us on a daily basis?  The disciples of Jesus did.

Jesus was tired. He sat down at a well and waited.  Soon, she appeared and an interaction begun.  The result of that interaction was that a woman, and "many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him, because of the woman's words,.....he stayed two days and because of his words many more became believers." Jn 4:39,40,41.

As far as disciples were concerned, they were on their way back to Galilee and unfortunately had to pass through this undesirable region of Samaria.  It was inconvenient to stop here, and that Jesus actually was wasting time talking with a woman, and a Samaritan at that, was just plain confusing.  They were even more surprised that Jesus wanted to spend a couple days there!  They had places to go (the villages of Judea) and  important things to do (hang out and be a part of the ministry).  Not waste time with women and Samaritans.

Jesus gave them a reality check.  

"Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest?'  I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe and ready for harvest." Jn 4:35

Jesus took them out of their thoughts and intellect that knew how to interpret the seasons and said; look! Open your eyes and see what's in front of you.  Ripe hearts, prepared and waiting to be harvested into the Kingdom.  Today is an opportunity for impact.

Our eyes need to see around us the opportunities that are available and waiting for us. Our fields that are ripe and ready.  They are there if you get out of your head and start looking.

 The neighbor who we've just waved to from our car from time to time.  The store clerk we see every week at our grocery store or favorite gas station.  A co-worker that has been quiet and isolating themselves.  The barrister at the coffee shop we regularly visit.   Our mailman.

Simple, ordinary life interactions that can have everlasting affect if we'd take the time to look.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Salty Lives

Ever stuck your tongue on raw salt?  Wow!  Instantly, the brain recognizes the intensity of its flavor.  We then respond with two possible reactions; we either hate it or want more.   This aspect of salt; the affect of it, is crucial in understanding what Jesus means when He refers to us  "as the salt the world." Mt 5:13

We're supposed to be different.  We're supposed to cause a reaction.  We take our saltiness, or lack of it, into every aspect that makes up our lives.

Salt can do many things with the properties it holds.  It is a substance that can be both positive and negative in its affects.  It can preserve, heal, corrode, destroy, enhance flavor, and it is placed in practically everything these days.  It is in most of the packaged and prepared food we eat,  the things we drink, cosmetics, household cleaners and detergents, and for those of us who live in the colder climates, it's poured all over our roads during the winter.  It is simply and profoundly integrated into our lives in every way.

Think of the impact of one chemical element.

Jesus wants us to be like that.  Causing a reaction of some sort in the relationships and "oikos's" of our lives.   A spiritual reaction.  Something of eternal value and substance.
 To be agents of healing and restoration. 
To be those who preserve of what is good in one another.
To be ones to draw out and enhance the unique flavor of each of us.
To act in corroding and destroying unscriptural truths that permeate our lives, culture and world.
To be responded to with; "I want some more of that!", in our relationships.

Salt is meant to be used for a purpose.  It is to be cast upon something for it to have an affect.  If it sits and accumulates it becomes dead and toxic. Think of the Dead Sea. It has the highest salt concentration of anywhere on earth and it is completely toxic to anything living.  The only thing it is good for is to float upon it.  It is dead because it has no outlet.  It's salt accumulates but is never flowing out.

We are not meant to achieve saltiness for ourselves but to be in constant distribution of it for the sake of others and the Kingdom of God.

  The new and trendy low salt models we have as consumers may be good for our physical health, but Jesus means for us to be highly salty.  To loose any of our saltiness places us on the verge of being "usless".  His words, not mine.

We have workplaces, homes, neighborhoods, gatherings, hang-outs, clubs and all sorts of venues this week, this month and this year to be salt the world needs.  To cause some sort of spiritual reaction with lasting and enduring affect.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Carry You..... continued

It was 3 AM and I was on the phone for yet another night of battling unseen, but very real fears.
  "Why can't I take the stupid pill?"  I cried into the phone.  
" You can.  It will be okay if you do," was the quiet response I heard back.  
"No!  I'll become addicted, dependent on them, and then what?" I argued. "I can't do it!"
She gently replied;  "You won't.  It will be okay. I know it will.  Let's pray and ask God to give you peace about taking it". 
 I could tell I had awoke her from sound sleep. Again. Sleep that she needed for herself in her demanding job that she would be going to in just a couple of hours.
"Why won't He just make me go to sleep without it?  He can do that as easily as give me peace about taking a stupid sleeping pill!  I don't understand why He's letting me go through this!" I cried out in frustration and exhaustion.
"I don't know why,  but I know He loves you and He'll get you through this" she said, and then began to pray for me. Simple requests for rest, peace and the presence of Jesus.

 I felt a little bit better.  I could sense a far away shimmer of light peeking through my dark night.  I hesitantly placed the pill of sleep into my mouth, washed it down with a quick drink and cuddled up next to my soundly sleeping husband.
"Your sure I'll be okay?" I quietly murmured.
"Yup. You'll be okay.  Have a good sleep.  Love you", my friend said, and I hung up the phone.

She was right.  I was okay, and I was going to become more and more okay as the days progressed into months and I found stability once again in myself.  She was also right about another thing; she did love me.  Not in words, but in action.  

John 13:34 says; "Love one another".  How easy that sounds but so difficult to really do.  We think of love as a feeling of fondness, affection and warm return.  And those can be elements of love.  But, love is a verb, as the Christian Pop Music band DCTalk used to sing.  An action.  A demonstration to communicate the value of someone.  God loves us, so He gave us His Son in an act of love.  We have value to Him and He acted in love to communicate that value.

The Bible speaks of other aspects of true biblical relationships that are part of our being "rightly related" as a family together in the Body of Christ.  Aspects that my friend, my "Sam" had shown me.

"Care for one another" 1 Cor. 12:25.  The definition of care is to be watchful, to give attentive assistance to one in need.  

"Bear one another's burdens" Gal. 6:2.  To lift the load off their shoulders and place it upon your own.

"Comfort one another" 1 Thess.4:18.  To give comfort is to give strength and hope.  Freedom from pain, trouble and anxiety.

"Encourage and build up one another" 1Thess.5:11.  To give back courage, to strengthen and empower.

"Regard one another as more important than oneself"  Phil 2:5.  In my attitude and thoughts I will think of you and your circumstances of life in a manner that trumps mine.  I choose to serve you first.

"Serve one another" 1 Pe 4:10  I will take the above regard, and move it into action.

In a post Neil Cole put in his blog on December 19, 2008 (Cole-Slaw.blogspot.com/), he lists 22 different "one another's" in the New Testament.  What would happen if we, as members of One Body, called out to be a spiritual family, actually lived out and incorporated these into our lives and relationships?  Would the world finally begin to see something unique in our love for one another?  Would they see something so pure and real that it would  draw them into seeking The One who is evident through it?  

Let's give it a try.........

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"I can carry you!"

My favorite line from the movie Lord Of The Rings comes in the final stages of the journey of Frodo and his friend Sam who accompanies him. Frodo has been carrying the ring to its destruction in the fires of Mordor.  Frodo is exhausted, has lost his belief that he can complete the task and is ready to succumb to failure.   He tells Sam that he cannot complete the journey, he is giving up, it's all over.  Sam, himself exhausted and weary,  lifts Frodo up into his arms and says;"I can't carry it for you Mr. Frodo, but I can carry you!"

In our lives, we all experience times similar to Frodo,when we are completely worn out from the circumstances of life.  Our faith is shaky, our optimism gone and our vision skewed.   It's in those times that we really need a Sam.  Someone who will come alongside us, pick us up, speak encouraging words, and have the optimism and faith that we are lacking.  Someone who says to us; "I can carry you!".

Many years ago I went through a difficult time and found this out in a very personal way.  Within a two week period my father suddenly died, Tom was laid off his job and I herniated a disk in my lower back making any movement excruciatingly painful.  I was in emotional loss and physical pain, and that was more than I could handle. I began to have panic attacks and incredible anxiety.  I couldn't sleep at night and that only heightened the intensity of everything else.   I went from being a strong, independent, capable person, to being a weak, needy and empty one, within a couple short weeks.  

I had many friends come over, stare at me on the couch, shake their heads and leave.  I didn't hear anymore from them.  I was not the same person, and they didn't know how to relate to me in my present state. 
 I had some friends like those of Job.  Friends that tried to analyze my circumstances and counsel me out of it.  They likewise, after a few attempts to fix me, left and I no longer heard from them either.  
And finally, the friends who thought, if they ignored me and the state I was in, maybe when I got out of it, we could just pick up where we left off like nothing happened.
I was seeing friendships "drop like flies" during that period of my life. I saw just how shallow most of what we call relationships are.  If I hadn't been so depressed at that time anyway, the truth of that realization alone would of been enough to push me into it!

The Apostle Paul mentions the desertions of some of his friends when he needed them on a number of occasions.  Jesus Himself experienced it when all the disciples ran away from him at his arrest and hid themselves.  Sometimes we will have only God Himself to see us through difficult days.  However, I believe that although we will have some of those times, most of our difficult seasons in life are meant to be shared with each other.

We're not made for solo journeys.  We are created for relationship. We are not called to our own islands of experience.  We need each other in our experiences.  We are called to be a family.  A healthy, mutually interactive and supportive family where we "seek to the welfare" of each other above ourselves.  That costs us something.

Tomorrow I'll share more about the "Sam's" that God gave to me personally during that difficult time in my life. What they taught me about relationship and the importance of learning what God intends for us to have with each other in the family of God.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Three Legged Races

When I was a kid, I used to enter contests in events at family reunions, 4Th of July celebrations, summer community youth programs, Girl Scout camps and the like.  There were two contests that I usually had a chance at winning; one was the water balloon/egg toss, and the other was the three-legged race.

In the three-legged race I'd bind our our ankles and knees together and then squeeze the other persons hip into mine with all my strength.   When we ran the race tightly joined with each other, our two bodies becoming one, we would cross the finish line in victory.  What made you successful at the three-legged race was if you could get so tightly connected to the other person that you began to move as one.

Those who lost, lost because even though they may have been connected, they were loose and weak connections.  They were not tightly bound. They had connections that did not hold together through the forward movement of the race.  Those teams usually fell down again and again, and often were disqualified because they spent more time on the ground than in the race!

Most of the Church is like this today.  We are not tightly linked together, but instead loosely connected with superficial relationships of convenience.   Since we are living and functioning as individual parts we often find ourselves falling and floundering.  I hear again and again, people say, they feel isolated and alone in their journey.

Can you imagine a human body functioning in a way where it was not intimately connected and functioning as one? In fact, there are diseases of the immune system that parts of the body act as individuals and then attack it's own healthy cells. These cells are not functioning as one body and the results of that are devastating.  This is not God's plan for our physical or the spiritual body.

In the book of Ephesians it says; " Christ the Head....from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." 4: 16.

If we, as the Body of Christ, are not tightly held together, we are in danger of falling again and again.  Like those who couldn't complete the three-legged race in my illustration.
We need to be fitted and joined to one another.  Tightly bound.  It is the only way we can move forward and grow.

Are there those in your life that you are tightly bound to?  Those that you can run the race with joined hip to hip?  If yes, then great!  Be an example to us and encourage us with what you have learned and walk in.  
If not, why not?  It is part of your provision in the Body of Christ to be so joined. Find the few around you that God has placed in your life for such connections and get tightly bound. You determine how tight the bonds are.

Paul exhorts us in 1 Cor. 9:24; "do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win."

May we all win our three-legged races!

Monday, March 9, 2009


Community existed at one time in our nation.  Not what we think of as community in our modern times.  Today, we call the suburb or neighborhood we live in, our "community".  In today's reality, all that means is the place where our house sits, our shopping takes place, and our kids go to school.  We have changed the meaning of community into just a geographical location.  If we are still attending a traditional expression of church, then we may consider the congregation of people that we see there once or twice a week; our community. We see them, say "Hi, how are you?" and "bye" and move on.  But is that what real community is?

In most of our history as a nation, we had what I believe,  to be a better example of community.  In those days, they not only lived in proximity with, but entered into, one another's lives in powerful ways.  People ate regularly in each other's homes, seeing food as an avenue of fellowship. If someone was experiencing hardship, food was shared generously with the knowledge that the next time, they may be on the receiving end. Building projects involved most of the community members in one aspect or another.  People put aside their own lives and concerns and put in long and arduous labor for another's well being.  When sickness and health issues arose, many times people exposed themselves to possible infection to nurse the sick.  Others took on the job to keep up with chores, children and daily living requirements of  those incapacitated, adding to their own personal responsibilities and making for very long work days.  

My mother and father used to tell me stories from their childhood, growing up in The Great Depression, of the 1930's in the U.S.  Both lived in small rural northern MN towns and both grandfathers were able to work minimally during those years.  One, worked on a railroad.  The other in the iron ore mines.  Not high paying jobs, by any means.  Both families had gardens and some livestock on their small town lots.  And both families cared for and supported many other families and individuals during the years of The Depression who had no income, no gardens and no livestock to eat from.  But this support was not out of  a surplus of my grandparents supply.  Rather, it came from their own small portion that was barely enough for their own families.  My mother tells of  having underclothes made from flour sacks, and getting to eat either the back portion or 1 wing of a chicken for her dinner.  But, my grandmother canned for hours, food harvested from the garden, to give away to folks who needed it and were worse off than them.  

Let's be honest.  This is pretty far removed from how we live in community with each other today.  Sure, we don't have the Great Depression that would force some of this. Yet, anyway. Most of us live self-sufficient insular lives, paying our bills, taking vacations, buying "stuff" and every once in a while, we may give a few bucks away to someone who may need it.  If we help someone with a building project they may be doing, we help if it fits into our scheduled lives.  If someone is sick or incapacitated for awhile, we tell them; "we'll be praying for them."  If we do actually involve ourselves, we put it on our calendar for a couple days and see that as a sufficient amount of time given our own crammed lives.

About ten years ago, I remember visiting with a friend who was planning for the pending disaster of Y2K . They had taken me downstairs to show me all the food, water and necessities they had been stocking away for this looming crisis.  It was incredible, to see all their work in laying this immense supply of provisions.  I made the comment that, even though it was a lot of supply, it probably wouldn't last long once the neighborhood found out about it!  They'd be THE house of provision for the neighborhood!  His response was; "well, I've been thinking about purchasing a gun, just in case something like that would happen.  So our provision is protected and we are okay through that time."  I blurted out; "You'd shoot someone?"  I was glad to hear him say; "no, I don't think I could do that, but I could scare them away!"

Okay, this is not a situation for our normal everyday lives.  At least, I hope not.  But, it does give an example of what we do all the time.  Our focus is not, otherly.  Our focus is; me, my, or our.  We have lost touch with; they, them, and those.  We have lost understanding of community.  and even more sad, we as Christians have missed living in relationship with each other as an example to the world around us.  "They will know us by our love", is surely not obvious in our daily life interactions. 

What if this house of provision, in the above illustration, laid up all these food stores SO THAT they could be a household living in real community for their neighborhood?  Isn't that one of the lessons we learn from Joseph and God blessing him with knowledge of pending drought upon the land, SO THAT  ultimately God would be revealed and His people seen as a blessing of His love?
 What if we began to really enter into each others lives in ways that cost us something, inconvenienced us, or meant that we might not have enough for ourselves?

Maybe we can learn this without a disaster that would force some of this to happen.  That is my hope.  I'm getting tired, at my age, of learning things the hard way. I desire real community.  I long for relationships of impact into one another's lives that are on a deeper and truer level than I have thus known. I want to see living in my neighborhood make a difference to those those around me in powerful, life sharing ways.  I want to see "Thy Kingdom Come, On Earth As It Is In Heaven".

 How about you?   

Lord help us....

Monday, March 2, 2009

Kingdom Relationships

I going to begin a series of writing on Kingdom relationships.  Obviously, that's a huge topic, and one I certainly won't be able to cover completely.  Nor do I have any more than my perspectives to offer. That's why I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section following the posting. Most blogs are not intended to be a discussion , but I'd like to try and move this topic into one.

In the Simple/Organic/Missional movement, God is teaching us what it really means to be "linked and joined together".  What kind of bond is that?
There is a hunger in the world and the Church,  for "right relatedness" to each other.  We want more than what we've had.  What does that really look like ?
A lot of us feel like our struggle through life is pretty much a solo act and we long for connectedness at a deep lever. Our American individualism is hindering us from what is healthy and needed.  We know our lack.   How do we experience his provision?

Recently I found myself feeling a bit like Elijah.  When Elijah felt like a solo act.  Not one of Elijah's most triumphal moments.  In the end, God's answer for Elijah was not one we might expect.

In 1 Kings 19, Ahab had put out an order to kill the prophet Elijah and all the other prophets of the land.  Elijah had prophesied a severe famine upon the land years earlier and Ahab was angry.  Obadiah, who worked for Ahab, but was secretly a follower of God, had hid 100 prophets in caves and provided food and water for them.  Elijah, knowing the danger to his life, fearlessly challenged Ahab and all 850 false prophets to a showdown.  God showed up powerfully, and confirmed once again His Supremacy.  Elijah killed all the false prophets, prayed for rain to end the drought, and outran Ahab's chariot to Jezreel. (Wow, what a day Elijah had!  He was really tracking with God and feeling the anointing!)

Once he arrived in Jezreel, he hears that Jezebel is out to get him, and he becomes afraid and flees.  He then spends a long time on the run and in hiding, becoming more and more despondent.  He begins to whine to God about the state of his current life and ministry.  He wants to quit.  He's tired.  He feels alone.

What is God's response?

  I read no condemnation in the passages that address this state where Elijah finds himself.  No response from God like; "look what I did through you!",  "when are you going to grow up?", "pull it together Elijah!"  Instead, God patiently listens to his complaints, tells him what he needs to know (that God has 7000 other followers out there and Elijah is not alone), attends to his physical needs and exhaustion , and speaks to him gently through a quiet breeze.  
He is going to give Elijah a partner.
 It says in verse 21 that; "Elisha followed Elijah and ministered to him".

  I think most of us can think of  situations similar to Elijah's in our journey with Christ.  Maybe we don't see fire fall from heaven to burn up rocks, but we certainly have experienced great times of feeling a glimpse of the Kingdom in fellowship, ministry, and life events.  We see God move in powerful ways and we are feeling pretty good about it.  We are optimistic and full of faith for the future.  We feel a boldness that we know is God confirming Himself in us.
Then comes something that is like a Jezebel.  Some situation that knocks the wind out of us, sets us off balance and steals our confidence. We begin to wallow in the same whining of  Elijah.  We isolate and find ourselves far from where we used to be.  We feel completely alone in our struggle.  How does this happen?

In John 10:10 Jesus says that the enemy comes to "steal, kill and destroy".  What is a better time for that then when we are vulnerable and with our guard down because we are basking in the wonders of the moment?  At no other time are we really more vulnerable to such attacks.  The fact of Kingdom life is not if we go through these times, but when.

Isn't it awesome that God does not chide us for this vulnerability but instead gives us an example, like Elijah, to strengthen us and encourage us for when we go through such times?  Peter sure had some of these moments, and so did Thomas. David writes of many such times in his life.   Paul says in 2 Cor 7:5-6 "...our flesh had no rest but were afflicted on every side; conflicts without and fears within.  But God who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus".

Titus's coming encouraged and strengthened Paul. It brought him comfort.  In a similar way that Elisha gave strength and comfort to Elijah.  There is something so powerful about the relationships God desires us to have.  Persons to walk the journey with. People designed to comfort us specifically for the particular passages of life.  Elisha was really only with Elijah a short portion of his life and ministry, and yet at a very crucial point for both of them.  Titus likewise.  In those short spans of time, God was able to work powerfully in their relationships together for mutual benefit.  They were strong and deep relationships.  Kingdom relationships forged with a different kind of bonding.

I spent an hour on the phone with someone last week who was my Elisha or Titus.  I greatly needed this brothers' comfort and perspective.  I have gotten used to fending for myself and getting along without much in comfort. But getting used to something, doesn't mean it's healthy.  I have often felt like an orphan.  That is not Gods design for any of us. 
I need to learn a lot about Kingdom relationships. I have glimpses of them, from time to time in my life.  I know God has a provision for me, and  for all of us, that is far above what we can imagine.  That's what I want.