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. 

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